Two cats on a mission to save humanity with a potato.

By Martin Crabbe | November 26 2020

Two cats on a mission to save humanity with a potato.

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    “Yo por ti, tu por mi, Yo por ti, tu por mi.” lyrics from I x Ti, Tu x Mi  sung by the incredible La (Senorita) Rosalía and Ozuna.

    “A potato for you, a potato for me”, spoken by Minerva in our audio-story, The Magical Orange Doorway. These words were my mis-interpretation of La Rosalía’s lyrics that became one of my inspirations.

    Hola! 

    Before I explain how and why two cats try to save humanity with a potato, I need to make two spoiler alerts:

    Firstly, this blog is aimed at adults. If you are not an adult, feel free to read on but don’t blame me if you get bored. Secondly, I may give away some clues to Chapter 1 during this blog, so if you haven’t listened to it yet, and if you like magical adventure stories where cats try to save humanity with potatoes, stop reading now and listen to the story here!!

    We launched our new school project last week with a story called the Magical Orange Doorway. The initial project was narrated by Leydis and I (see below) as part of the Proyecto Peru team at Glebe School . The audio-editing and graphics were produced by Chris, the magician, at The Podfarm. To find out more about us click here.

    (Leydis Vollar, the voice of Minerva, translator and interpreter)

    (Me, author, narrator and voice of Edmund)

    It starts with a magical audio-story of two cats and their plan to save humanity with potatoes and other stuff. We deliberately launched it in London Climate Action Week (LCAW), smack bang in the middle of a global pandemic. But it didn’t go entirely to plan: the big launch of the story to Glebe School children has been delayed by a Covid-induced school closure. But, like all opportunists, we’ll turn that into part of our narrative. 

    Our project was launched in LCAW amongst many other exciting events including

    • the launch of a Teacher’s Pack of 4 lessons on climate action.
    • the Doorways Podcast promotion of 5 inspiring London Women
    • the inspiring voices of Bird Girl and the Eco Emeralds at the Semble community webinar
    • the start of a climate collaboration between London’s universities and schools
    • a climate cafe run by climate psychologists
    • the introduction of Let’s Go Zero 2030 to London on the back of its launch at the Youth Climate Summit the previous week
    • the brilliant closing song by Love Ssega imploring us to find another way

    Throughout the week the message was clear: that climate action will never be transformatory if it is a campaign run by cliques and elites whilst others are excluded by pain, by poverty, by ability, by status, by race, by age. We needed a Climate Reframe.

    Climate action, as was self-evident during London Climate Action Week, is interweaved into our lives. It is part of our day to day reality whether we accept it or not. From the personal level to the global scale. Climate change will affect many of those in the most desperate situations first and worst. This is one very clear reason why we cannot ignore social injustice as we work on carbon reduction.  

    During London Climate Action Week we also talked a lot about the way we address climate change with children. We need to do it in a way that offers them hope. We must be clear that it is not the child’s responsibility to bear and we must show them that adults are already engaging in solutions. Real solutions. Not empty promises. Local as well as global. And many of these solutions and potential learning opportunities can be exciting. See for example, the incredible practical climate action guidance document for schools written by Annette Figueirido on behalf of the Mayor of London. 

    And it is with these ideas in mind that we developed our new project: The Magical Orange Doorway. We have tried to try to create a little space for hope, fun and learning for some of our students, in collaboration with a few of the people that we work with. We are trying to create a project that explicitly tries to see the magic in the ‘everyday’. We are trying,  as Judy Ling Wong encouraged us in her recent podcast, to develop a passion for nature and a love for people. 

    • By using the ancient art of story-telling. 
    • By valuing words and languages.
    • By listening.
    • By eating familiar foods in different ways. And by growing food. And by sharing food. And by sharing food ideas.
    • By working with as many people as will work with us. 
    • By finding ways to work that suits the school timetable and priorities of the school – especially important during this global pandemic
    • By starting small. But with the knowledge that small things can grow mighty (las grandes cosas siempre suelen comenzar de forma modesta). And they can grow into shapes that we could never foresee. 

    The ideas in my story have of course been dragged out of my experiences, my relationships, my memories and my dreams. In the course of my 54 years of life I have met some incredible people, experienced some incredible things and made some incredible mistakes! Some of these have been shoe-horned into my new story. And most of them are so convoluted I won’t bother explaining. But I will try to explain the main points.

    I first got the idea for the Magical Orange Doorway during the summer of 2020. Quite simply it was inspired by zoom meetings and the Wild Area (a small wooded area in the corner of the school grounds). I had just launched the Doorways Podcast and was beginning to prepare for London Climate Action Week 2020. I thought it would be interesting to create something using the same podcast platform for the young people in my school.

    Around this same time, during the first lockdown, I was doing a lot of learning outside the classroom in the school garden and in the Wild Area with the key worker children and more vulnerable children. Some of this work formed part of an international school project we are running called Proyecto Peru (see Appendix). We had introduced a Spanish language and culture element into our school grounds work including

    • labelling herbs and vegetables in Spanish and English
    • and hosting a calçotada in the Wild Area (a Catalan BBQ) to celebrate our recent Eco-schools Green Flag

    Our Proyecto Peru team started to bounce around ideas for the Autumn term. We re-connected with Martin Allen Morales, a sustainable food expert, and a Londoner of Peruvian descent. We started to discuss ideas with him about how we might be able to work together to develop Proyecto Peru further.

    Martin discussed the impact that his grandmother, his ‘Abuela’, had on him growing up in Peru. Her dislike of any food waste. She taught him some simple, powerful messages about the value of food, of being creative with it and wasting nothing. 

    (Since that chat I eat every bit of my apple!!)

    It was Martin’s Abuela and her messages that were the next real inspiration for us. Apart from her simple, powerful messages on food waste she triggered in us memories of our own Abuelas.

    The idea for a character called Abuela took shape. Someone with a wise and beautiful soul who has learned from their time on the planet and has much to offer the rest of us. Whether you call her Abuela, grandmother, Mother Earth, Nature, Naturaleza, no pasa nada. It doesn’t matter.

    In the story, Abuela is the driving force for change. But you will never meet her. Abuela is who you want her to be. Maybe you have your own Abuela. For real or in your dreams. Feel free to choose the race, the gender, and even the species (she doesn’t have to be human!).

    But you WILL meet two cats in the story. Edmund and Minerva. Played by myself and Leydis. The cats and their ‘magical goings-on’ are, however, really the vehicle for introducing young people to the story and involving them in the concept. As our story continues the hope is that the young people will feature more and more in it. How they feature will be up to them. We’ll all have to wait and see.

    Each chapter of the story will translated into Spanish by Leydis. Leydis will narrate the Spanish version of the audio-story (with some cameo roles for me!). The aim is to allow the students in Peru the same opportunities to take part and co-create our story with our Glebe students. Language is very much part of this project and we hope to create a buzz around this shared learning. Leydis brings her unique gift of engaging SEN students in a modern foreign language to this project and we’re excited to see how this element develops.

    But the magical quest has now begun for us all, albeit in a Covid-inhibited way. And it has begun with four everyday but totemic food items, presented to Edmund by Minerva on the instruction of Abuela: a potato, a carrot, an apple and a strawberry. Each will be explored and honoured and used to illustrate the importance of valuing what we have. 

    Imagine, Edmund, if humans learned to value everything they ate and if they wasted nothing! The world WOULD be better!!” (Minerva)

    The potato, the carrot, the apple and the strawberry are the ‘totemic food’ choices for Glebe School. The young people in the refuge, with the help of Carole from Project Peru (who kicked this whole Peru thing off for us),  will probably choose foods more relevant to themselves.

    And over the course of the year, leading up to COP26 we will share our findings with each other and with anyone outside the school who is interested. Where this journey will go we don’t know. 

    • We will create and share our lesson plans both to colleagues in Glebe and Peru but also to anyone else that has an interest
    • We will share and celebrate failures, mistakes and blunders as much as our so called successes. The realities  of school life: trying to run such a project in a way that supports the school rather than creates extra burdens will be regularly discussed (Covid is likely to feature heavily!)
    • We will offer it as a case study to all involved in London Climate Action Week.
    • We will offer it as a case study to Let’s Go Zero 2030.
    • We will tell people at the next Youth Climate Summit all about it.

    We have been inspired by the UNITAR Virtual Youth Climate Dialogues project and we hope to be part of developing something similar in the UK in time for COP26.

    And we will use our small case study to help us engage in the much wider narratives of food, education, language, culture, diversity, place and climate action. Existing amazing school food projects such as Food for Life  and School Food Matters will be our inspiration.

    And as we develop this project we will try to look after each other. We realise that at some times during the year we will each have more capacity than at other times. We are human. We have real lives and real jobs that have many aspects and demands. 

    We know we can’t do everything. We know that we will make mistakes. But we also know that, if the moon is out and the wind is blowing in the right direction, we might just be able to create a little bit of magic.

    For Gary and for Pollito xx

    Appendix

    What is Proyecto Perú?

    Proyecto Perú is a cross-curricular project run at Glebe School across three subjects: Geography, MFL and RE. Our initial aims are to help Glebe School students to do the following:

    • Consider similarities and differences between Glebe School and a children’s refuge in Peru
    • Develop some understanding of the young people who live in a refuge near Lima, Peru (see below*)
    • Recognise and develop their own British values
    • Make connections between Glebe School and the refuge in Peru.
    • Make connections between Geography, MFL and RE ( language, culture, place, lifestyles etc)

    What have we done so far?

    • Cross-Curricular week 2019. We launched Projecto Perú with a focus on food, culture and language.
    • Day of the Dead
    • Bracelet and finger puppets
    • Regular dialogue with Project Peru* to inform our project

    *Project Peru is a small, lively, totally voluntary UK-based charity offering food, clothes, shelter, education, health and fun to those who live in our children’s refuge in the desert shanty towns of Lima, and giving ongoing and practical support to others who live in extreme poverty in the wider community. Our refuge in Zapallal, cares for over 50 children and offers real opportunities to children and staff alike. See https://projectperu.org.uk/

    What are our plans in 2020/2021?

    • OTOÑO Photography Competition across all tutor groups
    • Introduction of Proyecto Peru into the taught curriculum of Geography, MfL and RE
    • Launch on 18th November (during London Climate Action Week) of a Year 7 food project between Glebe and Lima includes audio short story.
    • Proyecto Peru Calendar project

     

     

     

     

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Martin Crabbe