In the 21st century, it is more important than ever before to be able to communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas to other individuals and groups in a variety of effective ways. This article addresses the role drama plays in building these skills; how it dovetails and enhances education; how it impacts childhood development in a holistic way.
A child is in the process of creating himself. With drama, the self is used as the creative medium. One’s self activity and self-expression are all that is needed to communicate and create with others. This is different than other mediums which would require tools develop such as paints, technology or musical instruments.
Drama is thought of as a form of human expression found throughout history and all over the world. It is, therefore, a fundamental need of humans. It is spontaneous in children’s play when they “rehearse” at being a parent, imitate a movie star or imagine stretching abilities like a superhero. In Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It,” Jaques says, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Essentially, children are trying on life. After a time, this develops into abstract thinking, problem solving, self esteem, flexibility, thinking outside the box, creating new knowledge and even common sense.
Howard Gardner’s list of eight intelligences is inherent to all humans. These are: 1. Spatial, 2. Bodily and Kinesthetic, 3. Logical-Mathematical, 4. Linguistic, 5. Musical, 6. Social Interpersonal, 7. Self-awareness Intrapersonal and 8. Naturalistic. A well–rounded, developmentally appropriate education should include opportunities to develop all eight intelligences ro prepare students for life in the 21st century.
Drama helps to accomplish the aforementioned by providing a fertile ground for developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Also, there is an emphasis on developing bodily, spatial, and linguistic intelligence. These intelligences have long been eclipsed in traditional curriculum planning by reading, writing and arithmetic. Research now shows that even the three R’s are positively impacted by drama because it develops listening and speaking skills and improves memory and comprehension.
Drama, speech, debate and a well rounded performing arts program can be implemented easily within a curriculum. If viewed as a part of every subject area and not as an elective, education becomes authentic and meaningful, as well as loads of fun.
In science, students can enact the working of a cell. In grammar, they can learn pronouns by memorizing the famous “Who’s on First.” In history and humanities, the opportunities are endless such as personifying historic people or doing a simulation of the Underground Railroad. Also, there has always been a strong relationship between storytelling and theater. The National Curriculum for English recommends that all English teachers include drama when teaching reading and writing. Even the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has added the history of mathematics as a standard for the 21st century.
A performing arts program would not be complete without a theater production component. Experiencing the stage and memorizing and reciting lines offer children the opportunity to express themselves with self-confidence. When a child is able to speak competently to adults or not be nervous in front of his class, he will not develop a fear of public speaking. There are many authentic components of a theater experience. Within the structure lie opportunities for creating sets, memorizing lines, singing and dancing, auditioning, and learning about the technology of lighting and sound.
Drama in education builds skills that are needed in the 21st century. An authentic curriculum that is cutting edge and dynamic must be taught in an environment that includes drama in many subject areas because of how it impacts child development in a holistic way. Children are naturally drawn to drama because it helps them create the adults they are becoming, develop their self-esteems and provides opportunities to shine.
Set the stage and let the curtain rise!