A house for a fairy- Romanian experience with a SENSE practice
Between August 7th and August 9th 2023, 26 young people from Romania got a chance to pilot one of the SENSE practices we will be proposing during our STEAM Labs, led by our Romanian partners at Asociatia GEYC.
The activity, A house for a fairy, invites participants to build a house for a fairy in a location of their own choice. The purpose of the activity is three-fold:
1. It engages people in the design process, starting from the choice of location, to the resources needed to build a house that is robust, durable and feasible with the resources at hand;
2. It makes participants reflect on issues of scale and the correlations that exist between size, resources and effort/energy required;
3. It engages consequential thinking as well as empathetic and imaginative skills, as participants take the perspective of a fairy, a smaller being for whom they have a responsibility.
The participants were outdoors, on the Miclăușeni domain (Iași, Romania- https://www.miclauseni.ro/), the house of Sturdza Castle, which was built on a Moldavian settlement with a history of 600 years, being at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and which represents today a true architectural jewel of neo-Gothic style, distinguished by the ornamental coats of arms and coats of arms they adorn its facade and the watchtowers guarding the park.
While exploring both the castle and the domain, the participants took a walk, paying particular attention to smells, colours, textures, mapping the area with a sensory map, capturing their emotional responses to the place. As the domain was in full bloom, they could smell flowers, the grass, feel the bark of trees, listen to bees and fireflies and take in all the fresh air the wooded area hiding the Sturdza Castle was offering. They have done all these while in small teams of 3 or 4 people, being encouraged to take some time for self reflection first and then meet up with their teammates. This first step of the activity lasted around 30 minutes.
During the second step of the activity that lasted about 30 minutes, the participants were asked to identify a location that is suitable for building a house for a fairy. They needed to decide upon a set of criteria about what makes it a good place (e.g. sheltered from the rain/wind/sun; hidden from possible predators; close to water/food); what materials may be available and how they can be used/re-used (e.g. organic vs inorganic material; re-cycled materials that is freely available etc); and finally what design may be more durable and what it allows for (e.g. a construction may be built from scratch or it may rely upon an existing structure, such as a hole in a tree or on a wall etc) and then build the house
During the third step of the activity, that lasted about 20-30 minutes, participants went on a gallery walk, and each group explained how they came up with the design and what makes their house a good house for their fairy.
All in all, following their feedback, the participants felt more in touch with nature, taking the time to really feel everything around them, while learning about Art & Design; Physics/Biology and Geography and the fairies had some very comfortable and sustainable houses to live in.