@ The Center for Arts and Learning
46 Barre Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
The dramatic experience at River Rock allows children to grow in profound ways. It helps teach self-knowledge through expression of feeling, it helps develop self-confidence and a greater sense of security, it encourages cooperation and the development of more meaningful relationships among peers, and it helps develop the imagination. Drama also helps children understand the value of one's intuition. So much of art and creativity depend on one's intuition. Teaching children about the role of intuition in one's life is as important as teaching them about math or science. As Viola Spolin says, "When responses to experience take place at this intuitive level, when a person functions beyond a constricted intellectual plane, he/she is truly open for learning. The arts are concerned with the development of intuition, which is no less important than intellect and is part of the essence of full enrichment of life . But intuition, like intellect, needs training, though not the same kind or means of training."
Dramatic productions are hard, serious work. Children have to spend hours learning lines and songs. They develop patience waiting while others practice their scenes. They develop stamina while repeating a scene over and over until it is right. Self discipline and self control are required to successfully master a part in a play. After all this effort, once the production is over, the children feel a great sense of accomplishment, and have learned the invaluable lesson that achieving great things takes hard work. This builds self confidence and self awareness and helps others see their schoolmates' strengths as well.
Doing drama helps children grow emotionally. Recently we held a group discussion in which we offered our fears regarding the upcoming show. Fears included making a mistake; not sounding good; looking out the audience and seeing people watching you; worrying that someone might laugh at you; and what if someone comes up to you after the show and says you made a mistake. After listing our fears we were able to help each other figure out ways to deal with them. The solutions were helpful and relieved performance anxiety. In addition, we teach relaxation techniques--stretching, breathing exercises and visualizations. Children who have done several plays have told me they use these techniques whenever they are nervous; it helps them gain control over their fear.
Sharing feelings and supporting each other builds a sense of community, and the kids learn that if any of them are not trying their best, it affects the whole show. They learn to depend on each other, and to support each other to do their absolute best. "A group of individuals who act, agree and share together create a strength and release knowledge surpassing the contribution of any single member" (Viola Spolin).
Other aspects of a performance include creating sets, props and doing make up-- also a great community builder as the older children often help the younger. And public speaking skills are strengthened; kids learn how to project their voices and achieve a confident stage presence and position. They learn that how they place their feet and what they do with their hands conveys to the audience their sense of confidence or insecurity. Understanding body language in this way and helps the children gain comfort speaking in front of large groups.
Whether in our twice-yearly all-school productions or in dramatic play that takes place frequently during activity time, drama aids persons in self discovery, and self-confidence, helps develop the intuitive, spontaneous aspect of the personality, encourages individuality and imaginativeness, and helps to develop a sense of community. It is truly a powerhouse in the curriculum.