Shoan Lo* (Melbourne, Australia)
Published in Internationala Journal of Ikebana Studies, Vol.7 (2019)
At the Wa: Ikebana Melbourne Festival 2019, I held two sessions of “Ikebana 4 Kids” – workshops for children aged 13 years and under. I had previously run workshops for adults, and for parents and children working together. Teaching mixed-age groups of children only was a new experience for me. For these kids, it was their first experience with ikebana. In this essay, I present my methodology, my impressions and findings from running the children-only workshops.
1. Simple teaching goals with interactive and active learning methods
While proportions and angles are sometimes hard for adults to understand, the simple principles of ikebana were easily comprehended by the children. Due to time limitations, and children having shorter concentration span, I adopted active learning, a method of learning which students are actively involved in the learning process. The workshop focused on engaging the children in two aspects – doing something and thinking about what they were doing. I planned the workshop so that the children would interact with materials through hands-on approach. They become more engaged and retain more information.
I spent the first part of the workshop using words and fun actions to explain the fundamental characteristics of Sogetsu ikebana - line, mass, colour and the concept of asymmetry. I presented simple body actions for the keywords and asked the children to do the actions every time I mentioned the word. This interactive approach was well received. I believe children in Australia are generally more responsive to an active learning environment. The actions made the information (or theory) feel more like a game.
2. Colourful combinations
I believe that children are very responsive to colours, therefore colourful florals were selected to grab their attention. Grouping the colours of materials further enhance the children’s understanding the essence of ikebana. They were excited to learn about the “unusual materials’ provided. For example, the children were fascinated by the pom-pom chrysanthemum and initially thought it was artificial.
3. The power of the “kawaii”
With the workshops targeting children, enjoyment and fun were of great importance. Each participant made a small arrangement with the chrysanthemum made to look like a bird over a field of Queen Anne’s lace and small chrysanthemums with two tall blossom branches in the background. Children of all ages and genders are drawn to “cute” objects. It was a delight to see the excitement of boys eager to make the cute little birds.
4. Flexibility during the workshops
Throughout the workshop I allowed plenty of room for the children to be creative while trying to adhere to the simple rules being set out. It was very different from teaching adult textbook curriculum classes, in which we tend to follow strictly as prescribed. At the children workshop, I have set out my own “teaching materials” and yet with a large degree of flexibility. Children are unpredictable and we must accommodate that. Their creativity was surprising. For example, one child decided that the wing of her bird would look good as a tail.
5. Do not underestimate the abilities of children
Children at the workshops performed very well, exceeding my expectations. They made good arrangements to reflect the key characteristics of ikebana, in which, most of the children remembered the characteristics until the end of the workshops, 30 to 45 minutes later. The parents were delighted by the quality of the arrangements. I hope to run further workshops for children in the future to show young people the wonders of ikebana.
Bonwell, Charles C., and James A. Eison, 1991. Active Learning: Creative Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1 Washington, D.C. : The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
* Shoan Lo is a certified teacher of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana. She is also the associate director of Ikebana Gallery Award - the first international ikebana award for all ikebana students. At the recent Wa: Ikebana Melbourne Festival 2019, she actively involved as one of the project managers for the event. She is a registered architect.