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Project History


The Firefly Residency project is based on the principals and teachings of renowned educator Vivian Gussin Paley, an American pre-school and kindergarten teacher and early childhood education researcher. Paley’s biggest legacy is in the area of storytelling and fantasy play, which she argues can significantly impact a child’s academic and social growth, as they help young children make sense of the world around them, adapt to the classroom, develop language, and collaborate with peers.

Respected theatre artist and arts educator Linda Carson discovered the Firefly Project when she visited TAG Theatre in Scotland. With their permission, she adapted the project for use in Canada. Linda brought the project to many schools throughout Ontario, many in remote communities. In 2012, Linda trained artists at Theatre Direct and passed the Firefly’s glow onto us! Thank you Linda!

Over the last few seasons, we’ve continued to adapt and develop the project for Toronto schools and modified aspects of the approach to serve children with Autism and development disabilities.

Theatre Direct has undertaken residencies at Crescent Town Elementary School, John Ross Robertson P. S., Kingslake P. S., Withrow School, Beverley School, Dovercourt P. S., Elkhorn P. S., The Mabin School, Secord Elementary School, Thorncliffe Park P. S., Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy, Clinton Street P.S., Shirley Street P.S., Cedarvale Community School, Carleton Village Sports and Wellness Academy, Eastview P.S., Emily Carr P.S., and Fairbank Memorial Community School.

Artists in Residence have included:
Lynda Hill, Melissa Haddad, Jessica Runge, Randi Helmers, Derek Kwan, Michelle Silagy, Victoria Stacey, Kristin Rodgerson, Ginette Mohr, Ingrid Hansen and Emma Zabloski.

Feedback from Educators 

“I found all of the Drama games and storytelling very helpful for continued work in the classroom. The program was very successful and was enjoyed by all. [Firefly is] great for active kids and also great for quieter kids to open up.” – ElkhornPublic School Educator Cindy Greiver

“My class thoroughly enjoyed the Firefly experience. I saw [the student’s] imaginations and energy alight through the activities, the sharing and acting out of their stories. They were engaged when listening to other’s stories and felt connected to each other when acting them out, and were thrilled to share and act in their own stories. Students were excited between visits and would sometimes spend open play time building stories together (orally) and acting them out.” – Fraser Mustard Educator Annie Chern

“My students loved participating in the firefly project. The games were perfect and engaged the whole class, but the aspect I loved the most was the story collection. It was so great to hear their distinctive voices, and to see how engaged the rest of the class was by hearing and acting out each other’s stories.” – Secord Elementary School Educator Craig Moore

“My students are always eager to share a story now and are much more descriptive when explaining their work – I ask them to tell me the story behind it and I get some incredible responses.” – Fraser Mustard Educator Camille Bayliss

“There are students (boys) who chose to play in the drama room every day now vs. the beginning of the school year, which is valuable for their socio-emotional development.”  Fraser Mustard Educator Tessa Keremidchieva

“I feel a lot of these activities allowed the children to stretch their imaginations to allow them to think “outside of the box”. The children were excited to see their stories come to life, and that the setting and characters can go beyond what was written only on paper.” – Elkhorn Public School Educator Christina Chun

“The class began to work as one cohesive group immediately. They were smiling and happy and ready to work as soon as they arrived. I had students ask, “When the drama lady was coming back”, a number of times. They all said they loved the experience. By the end of the project, the students were so proud of their work they wanted to have an assembly to show the school. I used some of the warm-up games to focus the class after activity time. I also decided to have them act out their stories (as Lynda did), for an activity one day. I will take what I learned and use it with my kids next year as well. I really enjoyed the experience and learning new ideas.” – John Ross Robertson Public School Educator Kat Osen

“This has been the most important piece of PD [professional development] I have ever had” – Fraser Mustard Educator Robyn Wynberg

The Firefly Project and Lost and Found are part of Theatre Direct’s Arts from the Start programme funded by CIBC Children’s Foundation.
The Firefly Project is produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.