When the spotlight is centered on a student - that child, at that moment, is living in the moment - they become lost in the experience and perform at peak levels. Breathing changes, the mind merges with the body, and they are operating from their hearts. That experience dramatically enhances the overall development of a young person.
We sometimes take for granted that nearly every child will eventually learn to read and write.* If a child cannot read or write, we tend not to assume that this person is incapable of it, just that he or she has not learned how to do it. The same is true for creativity. When people say they are not creative, they often do not know what's involved or how creativity works in practice. But creativity, too, can be nurtured, developed, and refined.
Theatre class is a natural way to nurture creativity; here are six reasons why a theatre program is essential to holistic education.
1) INCREASES INTELLIGENCE
The highest form of intelligence is thinking creatively. Intelligence is tremendously dynamic. The human brain is intensely interactive. We use multiple parts of our minds in every task we perform. In fact, it is the dynamic use of the brain - finding new connections between things - that real breakthroughs occur.
From biographer, Walter Isaacson, "Albert Einstein took great advantage of the dynamics of intelligence. Einstein's prowess as a scientist and mathematician is legend. However, Einstein was a student of all forms of expression. He interviewed poets to learn more about the role of intuition and imagination. As a theorist, his success came not from the brute strength of his mental processing power but from his imagination and creativity."
Everyone is born with tremendous capacities for creativity. The trick is to develop these capacities.
You can be creative at anything at all - anything that involves your intelligence. There is a myth that creativity, like IQ, is a fixed trait - like eye color, and that there is not very much that can be done about it. In truth, it is entirely possible to become more creative in school and in life.
Mr. Thacker, Landmark theatre faculty, shares, "We think about the world in all the ways we experience it, including all the different ways we use our senses. We think in sound. We think in movement. We think visually."
The diversity of intelligence is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the combination of passion, talent, and hard work. Another feature of intelligence is that it is tremendously dynamic and intensely interactive. Theatre requires the development of all these traits and more.
2) REQUIRES DIVERGENT THINKING
Mr. Thacker opens his middle school class passing out a passage for the students to read. They look down at the words, but instead of beginning a choral reading, his voice booms, “Breathe in. Hold your breath. Visualize a picture of the words on the page. Breathe out. Articulate the line.” His direction requires them to stop and think about the content they are delivering.
Sometimes we have to step out of the box - outside of what we think we know - to examine a fundamental feature of all human intelligence - the power of imagination.
Imagination is what sets human beings apart from every other species on earth.
Theatre provides opportunities for students to learn from experiences that are fully immersive and engages all senses, stepping outside of their normal viewpoints and seeing and experiencing and enacting reality through a character’s or playwright’s perspective.
3) PROVIDES SAFE RISK-TAKING
So often, students may stop themselves from trying because they don't want to risk failing. They put such a premium on approval that it is hard to take risks. Some of their biggest obstacles to achievement can be self-doubt and disapproval of other people.
It is easier to overcome people's judgments than to overcome our own self-judgment, the fear we internalize.
Mr. Thacker provides each student with unwavering support. Students develop relationships with Mr. Thacker in which they feel a sense of steadfast support - that no matter what, they will still be accepted for the individual that they are. His Black Box Theatre is a place where it is good to be silly, to take a risk. Mr. Thacker creates an environment where it is ok to fail. All that matters is that we fall with style and try again.
Theatre class, combined with Mr. Thacker's passion and energy, provides each student with a sense that they can aim for the stars combined with the knowledge that if they don't reach them, they will not be loved any less. They are not defined by their successes or their failures. Failure is a part of life - and theatre encourages students to experiment with it, risk it, inside the Black Box, and see what happens.
4) REINFORCES STUDENT IDENTITY
The theatre is a place to discover ourselves while trying on the roles of others. The classes are held in the Black Box, a space that is loud and quiet, dark and light, a place where teenagers, inherently full of contradictions, have a safe space to rest in those feelings of unrest and contradiction, too. Mr. Thacker shares, “I pay enough attention and observe the individual students, the way they go about expressing themselves - individually and collectively - a student will show you who they are and the unique way they have been gifted to play a part in the collective whole.”
Left to their own devices, what is a student drawn to do? What kinds of activities do they tend to engage in voluntarily? In which do they hold back? What sorts of aptitude might this suggest? What absorbs them most? What sorts of questions do they ask and what type of points do they make? In answering those questions - a student will reveal elements of the gifts and talents they have been given by God - in order to fulfill His purpose for their lives.
For those students looking for a place of acceptance, theatre has open arms; for students who feel a little weird or different, theatre has open arms: the point is to be a little weird; everyone is weird; weird is accepted because it is expected!
5) TRANSFORMS SCHOOL CULTURE
Theatre class has the power to invigorate the imaginations of children and to promote a strong sense of collaboration, self-esteem, and community feeling in classrooms and schools. Children learn best when they learn from each other and when their teachers are learning with them. From Sir Ken Robinson, "Drama has the potential to transform the culture of a school."
Theatre brings learning to life and demands engagement by integrating the senses - which is relevant learning.
"The more you integrate something you are learning, with real life, the more cemented it becomes in your mind and memory."
6) IGNITES STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
And reason six, what students learn and remember is directly correlated with their senses - they remember things they fully engage in--immersive experiences.
The highest form of intelligence is thinking creatively. At Landmark Christian School, we continue to build towards learning environments where every child is inspired to grow creatively. Students’ best hope for the future and its unpredictability will be to have all their talents developed, so they can create their lives along the way.