On the night of 11 July, 30 students from Tzu Chi College of Technology in Hualien, Taiwan, put up a children’s drama, “A Forest Legend”, at Tzu Chi Singapore Branch. Both fun and educational, the presentation attracted an audience of 464 parents and their children.
“A Forest Legend” is set in a forest, where all the animals live harmoniously together, but a pair of brothers in the form of a two-headed bird were unable to get along with everyone else. The brothers were also in discord with each other, often arguing. One day, they accidentally ate a poisonous fruit, and it was through the help of the other animals that they found the antidote. The brothers thus learned to humble themselves and love others.
Imparting Wholesome Values to Children
The larger than life props against a colourful backdrop of forest on stage as well as the animal headdresses and costumes of the performers were all creations of the college’s students' ingenuity, capturing the children’s attention and bringing much delight to them.
The animal characters in the play were children's all-time favourite, like giraffe, elephant, owl, bees, etc. Interwoven in the play were some meaningful yet simple children's songs and sign language presentations, along with interactions with children in the audience to guide and encourage everyone to say good words, creating a fun and relaxing atmosphere.
The lively songs and exciting plot allowed children to have fun and even the parents found them enjoyable, too. From the play, one learns that all lives are interconnected; in order to live in harmony with others, one must eradicate selfishness and jealousy. The play also serves to instill the values of filial piety and kindness, as well as environmental awareness in people.
One of the audience members, Deng Yu Jun, felt that the play was very interesting and had taught him values that could not be obtained from reading books. He said, “For example, we must say good words. The bees knew how to love their brothers and sisters, and be filial to their parents. So I will also be more well-behaved and help to take care of my younger brother.” Yu Jun’s younger brother, Deng Cheng Jun, said that he has learned about the importance of protecting the Earth, because “the Earth is our home, without which we will die”.
Li Man Hua, a parent, said that she often tried to impart the values depicted in the play to her children, but they might not listen to what she taught them. However, through the stage dramatization, values and mores could be much more effectively imparted to children.
Li commented, “The play teaches children how to get along with one another and also about the need to protect the environment. These are all what we often teach our children, but we don’t know how much they really take in. I’m sure that the play will help deepen children’s understanding and awareness of these messages.”
An Educational and Enriching Experience
Besides the drama, “A Forest Legend”, students from Tzu Chi College of Technology also prepared a sign language musical to share with Tzu Chi volunteers in Southeast Asia during the cultural exchange.
On their 20-day tour, their first stop is Singapore, followed by Malaysia, and then Myanmar. Leading the group is the director of Tzu Chi College of Technology’s Office of Humanities, Xie Li Hua. She feels that tertiary education is very important and students should be given opportunities to broaden their minds and develop a global perspective.
“Especially given Tzu Chi’s educational resource-rich environment, with so many experienced Tzu Chi volunteers, we should let our students go out and see the world, so they can learn that as tertiary students, what missions they should take on in order to live a rich and fulfilling life,” Xie shared. She added that Singapore is a multicultural society, so when the students from Taiwan came here and interacted with the locals, they could get in touch with and experience different cultures.
Besides practicing for the drama presentation, the 30 students were also involved in the entire planning and organization process. The costumes, props and backdrops were all designed and made by them. This was what Xie had emphasized ─ “developing multiple intelligences”.
“Through the making of a play like this, the students went through a multi-faceted training. They had to learn to transform colours into something concrete that projects feelings. They also learned about rhythms and developed their logic to tell the story clearly, thus allowing them to develop multiple intelligences,” said Xie.
Guo Shi Yu, who played the role of a tiger said, “I am an aborigine and I wish to return to my tribe to help the people there. After taking part in the play, I would like to give back to my tribe by doing something helpful to my tribesmen. I can do this by bringing the spirit of overseas Tzu Chi volunteers back to my tribe.”
She also said that she loved children very much. Seeing and interacting with the children made her very happy. Although having one whole week of intensive training was tiring for her, seeing the kids’ enthusiastic responses, she felt that it was all worth it.