DRAMA IN THE CLASSROOM

When studying the impact of human activities on planet Earth, children may be shaken by the serious realities taking place here and now, and the possibility that the long-term health of the planet is threatened.

In Drama World anything can be imagined: past, present, or future. In Drama World students pretend to be someone else, bringing into the scene what they already know. In every situation there is a big problem to fix. For example, as they conjure up seeing plastic straws and balloons floating back on shore, a girl says: We asked people to stop but they don’t listen. The actors ask: What happened? Where did this happen? Why? What do we need to know to make things better?

Research confirms the connection between arts engagement and cognitive development. Educator Sir Ken Robinson was the most watched speaker in TED’s history with his 2006 talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Subsequently posted on YouTube, the talk has reputedly been viewed by 380 million people in 160 countries and has influenced schools around the world. “Creativity is as important as literacy,” Robinson said, sounding the alarm about children’s lack of preparation for a future unbound by our rapidly changing world. “All kids have talents and we squander them.”

Drama in the classroom provides immediate opportunities for engagement, the keystone to all learning. Curiosity and wonder set the stage for holding, keeping, and charming learners. Without engagement, without being absorbed, learning is, at best, rote and routine. Drama making gives students a framework to shape and articulate their aspirations.

When children step out of Drama World, their investigations into problems, and ways to repair them, continue. Students connect emotionally with the plight of land and marine animals, and question human habits, asking what could be changed, and creating bonds of understanding and compassion that last far beyond the 4th-grade.

Children find comfort and solace through drama when circumstances frighten them, and the future terrifies. One student wrote: I enjoyed it because you can just be yourself and do the acting at the same time. When they share their ideas about how to make what looks impossible possible, these children discover their resilience. Drama is their entryway to hope. When the children present their work, it’s like taking a bow on stage. When they rise from their bow, they come up taller.

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Elliot