"Teaching children through drama is like rebuilding forest one tree at a time." (Student Participant)
“I hope the next generation of teachers will use drama to teach where books and iPads can't. Drama can give schools the humanity they need,” said Gillian Schroeter, who is Course Coordinator for Bachelor of Education Primary and Early Childhood Education, in Ballarat. “Creativity is required in teaching and learning more than ever before,” she said.
At the Game Changer conference at Sydney’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts, on 12 July, Gillian joined fellow Performing Arts teacher Alison Brooks presenting a workshop titled Understanding Undergraduate Teachers and the Influence they have upon our Futures.
Alison and Gillian shared how imaginative play based on stimulus can allow children to think about deeper issues.
“I love Drama teaching. I love the look on children's faces when they learn to read through Drama or they understand how someone feels through performing, or when they collaborate to bring what they've imagined to life.
“I especially enjoy the positive and busy classroom of children who are highly engaged in their learning. I want to share this with undergraduate teachers.”
Gillian is also working on a very exciting project with undergraduate teachers on the Ballarat campus that is a part of the IDEA (International Drama Education Association) Land and Care Project. Gillian is the Australian delegate for the project, which looks at the possibility of teaching environmental matters through drama.
When drama is used to learn in the place of iPads and other common technologies, something happens. Children engage with one another, they problem solve and share understandings, through exploring solutions for environmental issues. Once Alison worked with an entire Primary school in this manner to explore an oil slick at the time. The work the children made and performed was profound.
Gillian said many of her fourth-year teaching students had never undertaken drama teaching in their course and were a little wary, however they concluded the experience was invaluable, giving them an insight to build rapport with students in a meaningful way.
The project she's currently working on is an ethnodrama, which can be described as data dramatized, uncovers undergraduate teachers' reasons for coming to teaching, and the potential drama has to be a highly effective mode of embodied teaching.
“We looked at local environmental issues for undergraduate teachers, along with each participant's experiences in education - as both child and teacher - and through movement and drama workshops we have made some very significant performance work,” Gillian said.
The ethnodrama created was a very insightful glimpse into the life of a child within the various school environments and how the child's experiences and environment shape their future.
The students involved in the project appreciated the experience and expressed that they felt "so much more prepared"... to be effective teachers than they would have been, had they not experienced this Drama/Dance elective unit.