Two years ago three very brave geography teachers agreed to take a leap with me. We embarked on a cross-curricula project that gave students the opportunity to engage in deep critical thinking around human rights issues and human wellbeing across the globe. We saw an opportunity for learning and set the stage for student performance by ‘inspiring, engaging and opening up possibilities’ through ethnodrama and verbatim theatre methods.
This project-based learning unit engaged the entire year 10 cohort in active research around human rights. Students worked collaboratively to creatively express the core of each issue to their peers in a cumulative Human Rights Forum Day. As performers they each expressed their learning and as an audience they were exposed to a myriad of issues which provoked both emotion and thought. Each and everyone of the students in year 10 performed on stage with elective drama students leading and directing the artistic process. In this unit theatre becomes an impetus for change inspiring students to speak up about, and act on, issues of importance in our society. Local, national, and global initiatives to improve human wellbeing are also examined.
The project was highly successful and I am saddened that I am not longer in a position to deliver the program for a third time. Hence, I am sharing it here.
Some things to note:
- This unit involved team-teaching across faculties. Before implementing you need to discuss with your colleagues how you are going to make it work considering timetabling, grouping of students etc.
- Elective drama students had additional intense lessons on verbatim and ethnodrama. They were then able to take their learning and apply it in their geography classes.
- Some of the geography students were reluctant at first. A safe environment needs to be established so inexperienced students can take the stage comfortably. We chose to allow scripts on stage due to the lengthy aspect of some of the verbatim dialogue. Headphone verbatim may also be used as an alternative.
- The students would research and script in geography. Drama students would bring this material to drama class where we would workshop scenes. They would then take back their drama knowledge and share it with their peers.
- We had a final day to pull the entire project together. This involved a workshop and rehearsal in the morning, followed by the performance of the pieces for the community and an evaluation / debriefing session in the afternoon.
- The Google Platform made the collaborative learning accessible and easy to manage both with staff and students. Google docs, classroom, maps, and forms were used in the delivery of this project.
“Obviously, I now know more about the personal experiences of people in Afghanistan, namely women in regards to education. However, I learned more of the need to connect emotionally to these topics, rather than the knowledge associated with it. As I've said before, we hear so much about the topic of women's rights in Afghanistan that I feel desensitised to it. It does not seem like a prevalent issue that is able to be fixed anymore. We hear so many bad issues that the problem seems so big that there is no way for a solution to be fixed. Now I know I can make a difference by speaking up. I really loved being part of this project”
If you have any questions about the program please let me know. I am grateful to Ms Kathryn Fairbanks, Ms Catriona McDonald, and Ms Rebecca Durrant-Whyatt for their assistance with this program and allowing me to share it here. Please acknowledge the source of this program when using it elsewhere.