British entrepreneur Julia Gabriel’s education-drama helps children across Asia learn while they act
It is a Saturday forenoon and a boisterous bunch of children are ready to break into a drama session at Julia Gabriel Center for Learning in the southern part of Delhi. The children, in the age bracket of 6-7 years, will be both creative problem solvers and learners during the exercise that will be a mix of fun and education.
For this, the barefooted participants have huddled into a colorful room that provides the perfect ambience for re-enactment of an age-old fable – The Ant and the Grasshopper. Two lively teachers – Jenny and Surbhi – share the responsibility of leading this animated bunch into a journey of discovery through the simple act of helping the ant teach the grasshopper a lesson in managing time and being prepared or organized for the challenges of facing winter.
|- This is an enrichment program that children take up besides their normal studies at school.|
- The India centre has 500 students from toddlers to teenagers, who benefit from this interactive education technique.
- The centre also works with schools covering around 400 more students.s
The lights are dimmed out, as Jenny stops the story at a point of conflict and asks the young participants if they can think of a way to approach this problem. The length and breadth of the studio is transformed into a garden where the ant and the grasshopper live. The children take on the active role of discussing various options and engage in trying these out to see which one will convince the grasshopper to be more prepared and organized in future.
It is remarkable how easily the children slip into their respective roles with gleeful enthusiasm. With each set of ideas being proposed, they begin to learn from each other’s perspectives and when they disagree it is interesting to note how they themselves negotiate and persuade each other to try out a certain idea and test its viability with the grasshopper. Time passes very quickly in the world of creative drama where the participants create their own learning through this dynamic medium of interaction and play.
As the drama evolves, the tiny hearts take home the message that being lazy (like the grasshopper) is no good; that one should go out and help someone in need. The whole exercise packs in its theme a quick dose on organizing oneself, working together as a team, engaging the children in the physical role play of building a home for the grasshopper, and the basic manners of welcoming and expressing gratitude where it is due.
Once over, the children are asked questions on what they discovered and what transpired when they met the grasshopper (sometimes the teacher takes on the active role of creating conflict as in this case playing the role of the grasshopper; while in many other classes one of the children may decide to play that role too!). This is generally followed by a writing exercise that is creative and helps children express through writing what they have discovered. Depending on the individual’s need for challenge some may be asked to write down what transpired in the drama, some may be asked to report as a news reporter on what happened in this world. Some may even want to experiment with telling the story in the form of a poem. The purpose of an Edu-drama class is thus fulfilled.
“Edu-drama is all about creating our own learning through engaging in the act of problem solving that may arise from a conflict in the story or a poem or any other text. With older children it can arise from any idea or a discussion or emerge from an experience at home, school or with friends” says Shalini Pattabiraman, senior teacher- Edu-drama (Level 1 to Level 6). “All of a sudden you have children coming up with quirky answers,” says Meenakshi Chibba, who runs the India centre, which is a joint venture with Julia Gabriel’s School of Learning in Singapore.
|What is Edu-drama?|
|Edu-drama is a process whereby students create and take part in impromptu drama together, drawing on their own interpretation of a poem or story and adding their own experiences to it. Such creative drama builds self-expression, confidence and problem-solving skills, besides promoting self-leadership.|
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