Theater in Education

GurukulaNetworkMay2014FINAL2_Page_11_Image_0001Presented by Ole Brekke at the NHE Conference Caracas, Venezuela

I am director of The Commedia School in Copenhagen Denmark, a two-year professional level theater school. I also teach classes in TIE (Theatre In Education) at teacher training institutions, universities and at the graduate level. I also lead workshops with teachers in many countries. I have spent some years as a classroom teacher and with children with special needs.

When classroom teachers, drama teachers, or any workshop teachers think of using theater in regular teaching situations, it is usually because they feel a need to make the education process more exciting, more alive, or more fun. So why not make a play or use some theater? This will be a much-needed diversion from the regular routine.

I would like to propose, let’s make theater the regular routine! Let me tell you why. We can put educational objectives in five categories:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Inquiry and problem solving skills
  3. Social skills
  4. Psycho-motor skills (physical education)
  5. Values

Normally educational activities focus on only one of these objectives at a time. By using theater as a method of study, all the objectives can be achieved at the same time.

For example, let us try to understand the interaction of cabbages, marigold flowers, and insects in a garden. The students need to present these phenomena theatrically. They can only play as insects, flowers, or cabbage, giving voices to each.

Objective 1 – Knowledge: To make the presentation, they need to know about the symbiotic interaction of the three. And everyone in the play must know the story. That insures 100% successful knowledge learning for all the students.

Objective 2 – Inquiry and problem solving skills: Where do they get that knowledge? Maybe from the gardener living on the same street, or from the botanical gardens. And how do they solve the problem of presenting it theatrically?

Objective 3 – Social skills: Theater demands social cooperation, working together.

Objective 4 – Psycho-motor skills: To mime the movements of the cabbage, the flowers and the insects demands attention to the body and awareness of how the body is moving.

Objective 5 – Values: By giving a voice to plants, an existential value is given to the plants. And they become aware of the value of the ecological balance between plants and insects. Both values are an important part of Neo-humanist education.

Theater exercises can also be used to research various phenomena including social, biological and chemical phenomena. One can even add a physical theatrical element to mathematics.

For me it is most important to use theater in education because it is fun. We all like to play, and that is what theater is, play. Education should be full of joy. In a joyful atmosphere people learn easily. Thank you.