November 22, 2010
With friend and colleague Carrie Lobman, I just returned from a ten-day trip to Brazil as the guests of two wonderfully talented educator/researchers—Fernanda Liberali and Maria Cecilia Magalhães from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo. Carrie and I were guest presenters at two events they organized, a symposium in Fortaleza and a course at their university in São Paulo.
For about a decade, Fernanda and Cecilia have been developing a Vygotskian, socio-cultural pedagogy and a creative community of researcher-educator-activists who advance, expand and inform the pedagogical approach. They do this through several programs and groups with names that include the words citizen, collaboration, creativity, social activity, and performance. We became friends and began to collaborate in 2006, with one prior trip I made to Brazil and three they made to NYC (presenting at Performing the World conferences and visiting the East Side Institute, the All Stars Project and NYC schools).
First stop was the northeast city of Fortaleza for the 4th annual Symposium on Acting as Citizens (Simpósio Ação Cidadã), held at the 7th of September University. It was a great conference experience—about 500 Brazilian professors, teacher educators, and university, high school and primary school students presented their work on developing social activities and performances in schools across the country. Carrie and I led off the first day sharing our play and performance approach to learning and development and its practice in the US and internationally. The first day ended with Multiple Worlds-All Stars, a three hour talent show featuring dance, song and skits performed by children and adults. It was wonderful! Some highlights were dancers from from public and private schools, and a charming performance of a scene between Piaget and Vygotsky from Fred Newman’s play, “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.”
On our third day we played outdoors! With Cecília we drove to three gorgeous beaches, took a roller coaster dune buggy ride, and had a great lunch on the beach. Before we left Fortaleza, we visited the 7th of September School with our host Fábio Delano Vidal Carneiro, who supervises the educational development at the school and teaches at the university, and the impressive youth dance school, Edisca.
In São Paulo, Carrie and I visited a public preschool and a private pre-through-middle school, both innovatively performatory. We led a two-day course, Performance: Creativity and Collaboration, for about 40 faculty, graduate students and teachers (many of them teachers of English). Among the hot topics were different views of “mediation,” instrumentalism and tool-and-result methodology, and performing and acting. In light of our particular understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the Brazilian people right now, Carrie and I—as postmodern Marxist internationalists from the US—presented who we are and the kinds of activities we have found effective in building community and creating developmental opportunities, both inside and outside of schools.
The large grouping in Fortaleza and the smaller one in São Paulo are very special, comprised of lovely, talented, creative people, who are building something unique that, I think, hás the potential to influence the direction of Brazilian education and youth development. It is a privilege to know them and to participate in their ongoing “search for method.”