An introduction to our biggest research project yet, from Executive Producer Belinda Kelly
Terrapin has been touring to schools around Tasmania for over 40 years. We’ve reached 158,952 students since 2005 and visited 85% of primary and district schools. But three years ago, we started to ask ourselves: is the program working? What would schools want more of? Who isn’t getting the chance to see a Terrapin performance?
With these questions in mind, we embarked on a major research project with consultants Patternmakers to evaluate the program. Here’s some of what we found.
1. Terrapin builds students’ skills in communication and creative thinking
Teachers believe that Terrapin delivers on the arts curriculum, but also helps develop soft skills in students like respectful listening (93%), the ability to express curiosity (96%), and ease in creative thinking (92%). These are key skills in demand with employers and have been identified as critical to the future of work.
2. Puppetry offers a unique medium for urgent conversations
Reflection worksheets collected from 390 students confirm that Terrapin productions prompt most students to think and talk about important topics. Egg (2019) appeared to help many students think about the environment, as one student said: ‘It made me think about looking after our planet.’ Others thought about ‘Climate change’, ‘destroying planets’ and ‘Global warming!!!!’.
3. Very disadvantaged and remote schools are more likely to miss out on performances
– indicating that price is an important barrier to participation. Since 2011, the schools with a higher frequency of participation are located in greater Hobart and Launceston. On the back of this research, we were thrilled to welcome Blundstone as our Access Partner in 2021, supporting 4,000 students in schools around the state to see Scaredy Cat for free.
4. In parallel: the research suggested that students in our Access schools experienced even greater positive impacts than average
Compared to other students participating in the evaluation in 2021, Access Program students were more likely to circle positive emotions, such as excited (62%, compared to 40%), funny (60%, compared to 48%), relaxed (44%, compared to 22%) and inspired (25%, compared to 9%). This really underscored to us the significance of the Access Program and the importance of continuing to reach all students.
5. There is a thirst for more creative learning opportunities for students
Many teachers selected ‘delivering theatre skills workshops for students’ as the most important opportunity for Terrapin to explore in future (62%). This feedback was critical for us in the decision to develop pilot program Shadow Play – a whole-class shadow puppetry workshop for grades 3 and 4.
This just scrapes the surface of the report, which drew on interviews with teachers, principals and industry stakeholders, alongside illuminating feedback from students. It’s an invaluable document for us in planning for the future, and provides useful benchmarking for future research – and, we hope, it can be a resource for other touring companies. You can dive into the full Patternmakers report here.
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