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The Wheels of Wonder - Film Review (Transitions Film Festival 2020)

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Building resources which benefit children all over the world
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Image - TFF 2020

The Wheels of Wonder takes us to Lebanon's capital, Beirut, which is currently home to an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees. A team of social impact creators with a project led by Marcus Veerman, founder and CEO of Playground Ideas, a not-for-profit providing open-source playground building resources are on a mission. To trial and test an unusual prototype play cart with the hope of improving the lives of refugee children through loose parts play.

Directed by Roger Ungers, a Melbourne-based freelance videographer, video editor and photographer, this 69min long documentary is enjoying its World Premiere. Head to the Transitions Film Festival (20 Feb to 6 Mar 2020) for this and other groundbreaking documentaries about revolutionary ideas from changemakers that are taking the lead to make this a better world.

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Images © Producer Roger Ungers

Follow the journey as an unusual prototype play cart is created from inception for a refugee housing area and a school that supports refugee children. Between planning and reality, numerous challenges in construction and trialling materials have to be faced. Not making it too perfect was one, so it didn't get used as something functional it was not meant to be used as; thus a fine balance in thinking had to be in play. However, this project is not just about nuts and bolts and loose parts.

It goes far beyond what we can see physically and delves into the psyche of development for children when they're at that developmental age of absorbing and learning. It also takes on a humanitarian hue to promote the welfare of those that are disadvantaged due to their displacement and refugee status, where their whole focus is on survival. This gives those children a chance to be children and not miss out on play, which is necessary for their development.


We all know children need to set time aside to play, to develop skills they're not aware of and to let their imaginations run free to help them navigate and negotiate their lives in the future. Benefits that may not presently be seen concretely but are in the mechanics of developing. The documentary highlights how loose parts play is perceived by different age groups in different situations and environments and even according to gender.

At the stage of filming, the cart is very much in development and perhaps even interactive with the audience as you won't be able to help yourself, but be engaged in its development with perhaps perceptions and ideas of your own. It's interesting to experience whether your train of thought runs parallel to the ideas behind its development or goes another way in idea, design, colour, shape and so on.

Since Beirut, the team has continued to trial and develop the loose parts play carts now known as the Nüdel Kart. The design was featured in an exhibition called Generous Nature curated by Belgium is Design and was exhibited at Milan Design Week 2019.



In the video below you'll see the physical and psychological functions of the fully developed Nüdel Kart. It gives children a chance to explore stimulating loose parts independently, but be able to do that in something that is so compact, simple, easy and instant and easily maintained.

When the Kart is deconstructed, it explodes out into space children can use for really high order thinking skills and social and cognitive development that is hard to teach in a classroom. Being compact and moveable it fits into any school system and is driven by the imagination of the children. Adults can step back and learn from the children as they go through developmental milestones, not realising they're using physics, mathematical skills and getting physical exercise at the same time.

It looks to work well in our developed environment, however, one can't help but wonder how it's going in underdeveloped refugee areas where the kids named it The Wheels of Wonder because the Kart gave birth to so many things and ways to play with it.

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Why? Wheels of Wonder - Documentary @ Transitions Film Festival 2020
When: 20 Feb to 6 Mar 2020
Where: Melbourne and Sydney, Australia
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