Language is the magic power of human beings - a power available to all children. In this workshop, we'll create a space where children can reach for this power, play with it, and learn to wield it, free of expectation and pressure. Through the playing of a game, we'll conduct simple experiments in which children use letters and words to change the world around them.
This winter, we'll play a game with children that involves reading, writing, secret codes, and building big. The premise of Alpha & Omega is taken from the children's game telephone - a group of children sitting in a circle, passing a message from ear to ear, seeing how the message changes after multiple tellings. Our “telephone” will have a different structure: a group of children gather in our studio, set up as a nerve center, a communication hub, with a variety of different mediums through which to send messages - letterpress, morse code, waxed tablets, typewriters, telex machines, quill pens, radios. This is team Alpha. Team Omega gathers in the Main Hall, surrounded by tools for measuring and materials for making - wood, cardboard, paint, blocks, recycled objects.
The game begins when team Alpha is given a message they must transmit to Omega. The message is visual & spatial - a blueprint for a building, a drawing, a painting, the plans for a machine. Their challenge is to translate something visual into language and transmit it to Omega, who attempt to decode the transmission and translate it back into the visual and spatial world.
We use this premise as a departure point for ten weeks of play. The children will direct the evolution of this game into more complex forms, adjusting it to encompass their stage of language development, while we, as facilitators, gently introduce new challenges along the way.
This workshop is recommended for children ages 6 and up. We'll help children cluster into groups of similar language development. These groups will open up lines of communication with each other, and will explore challenges that push the envelope of their abilities. Older participants will help mentor younger children.
Why all the antiquated technology? Why not play the game with computers?
We want to take this opportunity to crawl through the history of written language. Computers are magic. We want to tilt the experience towards an encounter with the magic of language itself, the magic of language as a code, which is the underlying magic of the computer. As we progress through the weeks we may choose to arrive at the computer, perhaps with a new understanding of the language within it.