“Keep your eye on the arrow not on the target” (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011b) Dance is expressive movement with intent, purpose, and form. It exists in many forms and styles and is practised in all cultures, taking place in a range of contexts for various purposes. Drama is the expression of ideas, feelings and human experience through movement, sound, visual image and the realisation of role. Both Drama and Dance is essential in children’s education and has many benefits however also portrays challenges for teachers.
In this essay I have explored three learning out comes linked to Drama and Dance that were evident in the ‘Teaspoon of Light’ project coordinated by Dr Peter O’Conner in Christchurch, New Zealand which was aimed to use drama and dance education to support children and teachers during the aftermath of the 2011 major earthquake. I have discussed benefits and challenges that may occur by incorporating the following learning outcomes into the primary school curriculum; Imagining and Creating New Works, Using Skills, Techniques and Processes and Making Aesthetic Choices.
The first learning outcome is Imagining and Creative New Works. It is a dimension of drama and dance that focuses on exploring and experimenting with movement to express ideas and feelings (Tasmanian Curriculum, 2007). It includes discovering and creating movement solutions that emerge from a range of starting points and stimuli. There are benefits and challenges the occur from Imagining and Creating New Works. A benefit to this learning outcome is that through stimuli for guidance, students can interpret their own ideas and this work encourages social sensitivity and group cooperation during collaborative work.
The Tasmanian Curriculum (2007), states that the ultimate expression of movement is recognised in performance. During ‘A Teaspoon of Light’, O’Connor told the students of a stimulus; the first line of a story: “There was a girl who, when she got out of bed, tripped, and tore her cloth of dreams. ” (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). A discussion then emerged about the story. The seven- and eight- year-olds told O’Conner that if you tear a dream cloth, your dreams disappear.
The students then solemnly said that it is the saddest thing that can happen to anyone. O’Conner asks the students to show him what the girl from the story might look like when she tore her cloth of dreams. Cornett (2011) states the dance is beneficial to the primary school curriculum as it develops creative problem solving. It is stated that power is put to use to solve problems in every subject matter, including the subject of life (Parrish, 2007 cited in Cornett, 2011).
Through the learning outcome of Imagining and Creative New Works the student’s demonstrated key components such as representing ideas and making choices, reinforcing the benefit-stimulus encourages students to explore and experiment with movement to express their personal ideas and feelings. A challenge that Imagining and Creative New Works portrays is the planning component from Drama. This component suggests that the creators of a lesson need to be very immediate- working in the here and now (Tasmanian Curriculum, 2007). The challenge is for teachers to be flexible in their sessions.
Teachers need to know how and when to change direction in a lesson when a new lead appears that is worth proceeding. During ‘A Teaspoon of Light’ the students involved were continuously participating in whole class imaginary worlds, i. e. dream makers, re-creating Sarah’s cloth of dreams, using magic rubbers and shaking the dreams with magic spells (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). O’Conner (2011) believes that the imaginary world that was created during the sessions was “the joy of the work” (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, b).
He states that as teachers, the session ended up in different ‘places’ because they were prepared to let it. O’Conner mentions a quote from Dorothy Heathcote related to working on classrooms “keep your eye on the arrow not the target” (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011b). Wright (2003) describes this challenge in that teachers must be able to communicate expectations, needs and difficulties in a direct and sensitive manner and be able to accept the same level of directness from the children. The teacher needs to watch, listen and fell what the children need and want to express (Wright, 2003).
O’Conner (2011) reflects on his session in ‘A Teaspoon of Light’ as constantly changing. He believed that deciding in the moment was an important challenge for the teachers and directors. The second learning outcome is Using Skills, Techniques and Processes in drama and dance. It is movement based as students manipulate a medium by reorganising, reinterpreting and assimilating movement and design element in new contexts or for a new purpose. The process involves working collaboratively to experiment with dramatic techniques in constructing, rehearsing and refining the performance (Tasmanian Curriculum, 2007).
There are benefits and challenges for the teachers and students when exploring this outcome. The Tasmanian Curriculum (2007) states that a benefit for Using Skills, Techniques and Processes is the developing of awareness, relationships and appropriate behaviours in dance and drama, leads to an increase in self-esteem and confidence. During ‘A Teaspoon of Light’ it was shown that the students gained confidence throughout the sessions. Ginny Thorner, a Christchurch artist showed the students a role-play, demonstrating practical dance skills and drama elements.
The students observed Thorner’s demonstration first before shortly having the opportunity to create their own response to create a whole class experience of ‘moving dreams’ (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011b). O’Conner stated that very few of the students had danced before, but through the use of teacher modelling it enabled them to develop their own short dance phrases, and therefore gaining huge amounts of confidence enhancing their opportunity to learn key concepts such as kinaesthetic awareness, performance skills, interaction and planning.
It was evident in the clip that as the development of these skills increased, the students’ self-esteem and confidence increased also, hence being a benefit in the primary school curriculum A challenge that Using Skills, Techniques and Processes may reveal is the call for teacher’s awareness of and sensitivity to other people’s ideas, physical boundaries, background and experience. The Tasmanian Curriculum (2007), states in order to manipulate the medium successfully in the classroom context, there are a set of behaviours that should be expected and encouraged during the session, such as respect and empathy.
In addition, Cornett (2011) writes that students value the surprising ways peers express ideas through movement; no one body shape or locomotor movement is right or wrong. In ‘A Teaspoon of Light’ activities were used where students created their own dance sequence based on what they felt were expressive movements. The students were also given the task to mirror a partners movement (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). There is evidence of the students working in their personal space, and developing awareness of what their body can do.
The clip shows students dancing uniquely to how they felt dreams may be brought to life. Students come to delight in the artistry of fellow classmates as they witness the inventiveness of peers (Cornett, 2011). This is a time where teachers and students must be sensitive to other people’s designs. O’Conner believed this was a time during the sessions that delivered “rich, good theatre” (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011b). While exploring this learning outcome, teacher’s awareness of and sensitivity to other student’s perceptions is critical.
The third learning outcome is Making Aesthetic Choices. A sense of aesthetics is deeply personal and students use their knowledge of aesthetic choice to make meaning and to critically appraise the works of others. In drama and dance, aesthetic choices are used to bring out the intention of the performance (Tasmanian Curriculum, 2007). There are both benefits and challenges that array from this learning outcome. A benefit to Making Aesthetic Choices in drama and dance is to deepen sensory awareness and learn to express themselves through the artistic use of pantomime, dialogue and improvisation (Cornett, 2011).
Maslow places aesthetic understandings at the top of his motivation pyramid (Cited in Cornett, 2011). Aesthetic Choices are demonstrated in ‘A Tea Spoon of Light’ when the students wrote a recipe of the things they would use in order to repair the torn cloth of dreams (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). Initially the list consisted of their own wants, needs and likes; bed, to be asleep, pyjamas and lights off. The second list mentioned after some Aesthetic Choices were made, demonstrated a deeper understanding of the purpose.
The second list consisted of 1 tsp of light in the darkest tunnel, 10 cups of love, 2 tsp of belief, 1/2 cup of adventure, 3/4 cup of hope. The list created by the students produced the rich Stendhal effect, the “ah” experience of being touched or moved (Lushington 2003, cited in Cornett, 2011). A challenge for successfully in cooperating Making Aesthetic Choices into the primary school curriculum is to be conscientious planning teachers who are knowledgeable about drama strategies and willing to adapt them for specific student needs (Cornett, 2011).
In ‘The Teaspoon of Light’ one occasion demonstrating Aesthetic Choices was the ‘cloud bowl’ activity. The students decided that they needed an imaginary ‘cloud bowl’ to mix all the ingredients together to create the new ‘cloth of dreams’. The students were able to explore and experiment with different types of movement spontaneously and in response to O’Conner’s requests (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). The students chose what, how, who, when and even what colour when they were putting their ingredients into the cloud bowl. O’Conner asked questions to deepen their aesthetic understanding. Is 2 tsp. of belief light or heavy? What colour might it be? ” And with each description, the element went into the bowl (Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, 2011a). The lesson was successful, but due to the fact that O’Conner was knowledgeable enough to create a safety net while guiding the students through the activity. He used strategies that enhance students’ ability to look, discuss, view, review, select, reflect and refine (Tasmanian Curriculum, 2007). Cornett (2011), states that the dance literacy level needed by teachers is contingent upon what their students are expected to know and do.
Reason can answer questions but imagination has to ask them (Albert Einstein, cited in Cornett, 2011). Learning through drama and dance develops the ability to appreciate and value on dramatic works. Drama develops the courage and persistence to ‘have a go’. The ‘Teaspoon of Light’ project coordinated by Dr Peter O’Conner in Christchurch demonstrates the learning outcomes of Imagining and Creating New Works, Using Skills, Techniques and Processes and Making Aesthetic Choices which in turn, have both benefits and challenges whilst being in cooperated into the primary school curriculum.
References Cornett, C. (2011). Integrating dance and creative movement. In Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts (4th ed. ), pp. 255-281. Allyn & Bacon, Boston, USA Faculty of Education, University of Auckland [foedauck]. (2011a, April 14). Earthquake: a teaspoon of light. . Retrieved from http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=jznOhFrSvJY Faculty of Education, University of Auckland [foedauck]. (2011b, September 4). Earthquake: a teaspoon of light (2). .
Retrieved from http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=ZoMpzIzJrFM The Tasmanian Curriculum. (2007). Dance. Retrieved from https://www. education. tas. gov. au/documentcentre/Documents/Tas-Curriculum-K-10-Arts-Syllabus-and-Support. pdf Wright, S. (2003). Dance. In The Arts, Young Children and Learning. (1st ed. ) pp. -230-255. Boston, USA: Allyn & Bacon. Wright, S. (2012). Dance-moving beyond steps to ideas. In Children meaning-Making in the Arts (2nd ed. ), pp. 85-114. Sydney Australia, Peason Education Australia.
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