Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art is Literacy for Everyone

Watching my drama students rehearse an original adaptation of Peter Pan with special needs students always fills me with feelings of pride, happiness, and inspiration. They learn so much from each other as acting encourages risks and challenges many of these kids in ways they would never experience elsewhere. Most high school students wouldn’t dare perform on a stage before an audience. They wouldn’t have the courage to allow their imagination to experiment with all of the physical, vocal, and emotional possibilities. They wouldn’t pay careful attention to subtext that provokes action, reaction, and interaction. They wouldn’t appreciate the discipline necessary to successfully understand and use all of the elements involved in the art of acting. These kids do, and they never fail to move those who watch a rehearsal.

Drama students write, direct, design, construct, and act in a partnership with students who have a variety of handicaps and together they explore the intricacies of literacy that is written, read, and spoken. They create set pieces, props, and costumes, always aware of possible limitations, but never obstructed by them. Every student involved with this project, now in its 6th year, experiences the magic of theater in all of its glory. For some, this is their first such production. For others, it is their third or fourth. At first, the newcomers are timid, but by the end of the first week, all look forward to the rehearsals.

The drama class is a diversified group in and of itself. There are the gifted, learning disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual, Mormon, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, emotionally disturbed, cheerleader, band member,  science nerd, artist, chess club member, gamer, athlete, FFA/4H  participant, and many other represented diversities. Everyone works together for the same end. When these students work with the autistic, intellectually impaired, Downs Syndrome, emotionally and socially impaired, special needs students, learning occurs at so many amazing levels. The meaningful connections to learning at a number of levels of inquiry, innovation, creativity, and critical thought could not happen over and over again without the universal literacy of art.

Making snow for the 2010 production of "A Christmas Carol"

Creating the snow making device for the same production

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