Thursday, 12 December 2013

Drama Education - Acting in Students Best Interests -

Its been a dramatic week. A statement can sometimes send shivers down a superintendent's spine. As a former English/Drama teacher I'm saddened by how the term "drama" has been co-opted as a euphemism for undesirable activity. In reality, drama is an exciting curricular area designed to give students opportunities to build confidence, expand their creativity and learn how to respect and support the work of themselves and others. This week in our district our secondary school mounts its production of "The Wizard of Oz" and Duncan Cran Elementary concluded a week long artist residency  introducing their students to drama and performance arts.

Our district has a long tradition in musical theatre. North Peace Secondary and Dr Kearney Middle school have been putting on productions for nearly 20 years. The programs are vibrant, energetic and popular.  Originating in the inspiration of two special educators, these programs have carried on through multiple generations of staff and students because they resonate with students and their need for creative expression. At the younger grades, elementary schools regularly bring in Artists in the classroom through Art Starts BC. ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom program brings schools across BC together with professional artists for artist residencies. Whether its an educator looking to enhance student education by bringing an artist into their classroom, or a visual, media, literary or performing artist  interested in working with students on a hands-on arts activity or artist residency, ArtStarts helps bring projects to life.

Duncan Cran Elementary recently hosted such a residency, bringing in a professional actor who spent seven  days workshopping with every class from k through 6, ensuring that every student had opportunities to find their inner actor, and perform in a safe environment. The week culminated in an evening showcase where every student got to perform on stage. While not actually a polished play, the performance allowed students to display their acquired knowledge and play on stage.

The benefits of drama education are tremendous, if not always obvious.  The Drama Education Network lists more than a dozen reasons to promote drama is school. Self confidence, empathy, imagination, cooperation, collaboration are all near the top of the list. Drama is all about respect for self and others.  Its interesting to note that the one thing most people fear the most is public speaking. (One recent survey listed it higher than dying!)  Drama is all about how to present oneself, or one's character, to others with courage and confidence. Watching our district youth perform this week, its easy to see that in being prepared to "break a leg", they are already well on their way to a more confident future.

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