Black Sea Awareness Project: Communicating Environmental Issues to ChildrenA design by NEPCO from the Netherlands, sponsored by the GEF/UNDP Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project.
Preface: Environmental issues of the Black sea and the future
The Black Sea's environment is in danger. Today’s generation do not have the environmental awareness to change the serious problems. Their commitment to environmental issues does not meet the requirements. The long-term effects of a damaged Black Sea environment will have catastrophic consequences for the countries around the Black Sea. The continuous abuse of nature will lead to poverty, poor health and lack of economic growth.
The economic cost will be far greater if this happens than trying to prevent this. There is no realisation that preservation will be beneficial. Hope now lies with investing in the new generation. If children develop a strong ecological awareness, the Black Sea and the surrounding areas will be saved for the future. In twenty years they will be the decision-making generation and have the power to turn the tide for the Black Sea.
Goal: Creating a memorable learning experience
Creating awareness demands an experience children will remember. An individual experience that creates a collective awareness resulting in a generation awareness. The environmental issues have to be communicated in an original way showing children that the Black Sea is worth saving. Showing solutions and emphasising the beauty and diversity of the sea will leave a positive memory of the experience.
The children will learn about the problems of the Black sea through a fantastic adventure that challenges their ears, nose, eyes and feeling. A multi-sensed experience that will make the memory of the adventure stronger. A central part of the experience is to give children possible solutions to make the Black Sea more healthy. They will get the feeling that they can really change this situation for the better.
Inspiration: The sea as a source of fantasy
The Sea has a strong attraction on children. It's huge size and lack of transparency stimulates the fantasy. Throughout history the sea has played an important role in discoveries, battles and mythology. The Sea holds many secrets. Its inhabitants can tell us fascinating stories of their adventures. The sea is both gentle and strong. Sometimes something washes ashore, an object that played an important role in a story. It could be a piece of wood, a bottle of a jellyfish; most of the time it is a seashell.
The Seashell: Meaning and symbolism
When you put your ear against a shell and listen really well you can hear messages from the sea. The seashell whispers secrets to you. You will hear an echo of past events. Before the seashell is left on the beach it has an important function. It’s the house that protects its inhabitant like a hermit crab or a molluscs. Many seashells together make a city. Some seashells are as beautiful as a fairy-tale palace. The stories they tell are intriguing and mysterious.
The Theatre: Giant seashells
The experience will take place in an inflatable structure. The advantages of working with an inflatable venue are many. It can reach remote places and has its own power supply; making it independent of the location.
Transport is relatively easy because of the reduced size in deflated state. Build up time is short. The stories from the Black Sea are presented in gigantic inflatable seashells. The inflatable sculpture will arise at different locations around the Black Sea, as if it is washed ashore in a mysterious way. It will look like a castle from an underwater fairy-tale. Inside the organic architecture you will taken into the world of the Black Sea. The striking appearance of the Seashell-palace will have a big impact on the place it will appear ensuring a lot of publicity. It can also be used as a multipurpose venue for readings, exhibitions, concerts or corporate events. The five shells are different in size. They vary in size, from 4*4*6 meters to 6*6*10 meters totalling around 130 square meters. Individual floor-spaces are 16 to 36 square meters.*
The Experience: Seashells tell a story
The seashell-palace has five rooms. Actors in marine-life costumes will take the children on a tour through the palace. During their journey in the palace they learn and discover about the wonders of the Black Sea. The children will be confronted with the environmental issues. The introduction of alien-species, eutrophication and pollution. These issues are presented from the perspective/viewpoint of the marine species. The participants are experiencing life under sea-surface in the same way a fish or organism would. The shells are connected to each other creating a pressurised environment. Through an airlock you will be led into Black Sea Adventure. The slight change in pressure will give an underwater feeling. The first shell will be an introduction into the under water world. Here they will meet up for the first time with marine life. Actors dressed as sea animals will take the kids deeper into the palace. The second shell is a projection room. Children will sit on the bottom of the sea and look up to a screen above them. The screen is a half sphere much like an iMax-theatre, giving a 3-dimensional experience to the viewers. Because all the walls are round in the shell the sound and music will be clear and beautiful; adding to the experience.
The third shell houses an attraction about mnemiopsis showing the introduction and rapid reproduction of this animal and the effect it has on the ecosystem. Using mirrors and light we will show the rapid multiplying of the species. The fourth and biggest shell is the central attraction and houses a inflatable field of sea-grass (red algae) inspired on Zernov’s field. While moving through the field the children will discover and meet marine life. Actors in costumes are telling them about their sometimes dangerous adventures in the Black Sea. Children listen to stories told by endangered species and learn about eutrophication and pollution. For reference the Black Sea Red Data Book is used.
The fifth shell and last chamber of the palace is reserved for feedback. Here the children will have the opportunity to react on their adventures and think of ways to save the Black Sea. It's a Black Sea Studio. Children can make drawings, put ideas in writing, or use other tools of expression. The Black Sea Studio will house a growing collection of the children's feedback of all different countries.
The Logo: Design and meaning
The logo is an image of a shell in the hand of a child It has been picked up and held up in be-wondering. The image of the hand also gives the feeling of extra protection. The shell itself doesn't give enough protection against bad influences from outside. The animal needs help from humans to survive in the Black Sea. The logo (shown in the sidebar) also symbolises the contact between humans and the sea.
Testimonial: Inspiration behind the concept
Our own childhood memories are the inspiration for developing the concept to communicate the environmental issues of the Black Sea to children. These complicated issues make it a challenge to reach children and young adults in a different way. Using our experience in producing theatrical events for children we know the impact of learning about a topic through this medium will be strongest. Theatre is a universal language. A very strong shared memory was the experience of the haunted house on a fair; an unforgettable playful trick of the senses. Combining theatrical visuals with the stimulation all the senses will create an unforgettable experience. Making the children actively participate will make them susceptible to the issues involved without preaching to them.
As a kid we did not listen to adults but we did listen to speaking animals. Working with video and actors will give great flexibility in targeting different age groups. Children from all ages and adults have the opportunity to enjoy and learn from this adventure.