IMPROVISATION (Dorothy Heathcote’s “Mantle of the Expert”)
To experience the relationships between geographical location, natural resources and the development of a culture.
The teacher talks to students about the word culture. A discussion follows.
The teacher asks students if they would be willing to create a new culture of their own. (The teacher needs to get their commitment, so if they should say no, present it in a new way, or present it to a different group.) Using markers and large pieces of paper, the teacher writes down important responses from students. (Where is the culture? Describe climate and terrain; list available natural resources.) It is important that their input is used if they are to feel any real ownership of the work.
The teacher asks what must be done first to establish the culture. (Using the categories of culture provided in the previous chart, teachers can lead students from their comments to the particular area of culture. For example, if a student says we need rap music, the teacher can direct the student’s attention towards the arts of the culture. Another method of classifying culture, which I think could work well with students in grades 5 and up:
1) symbolism, 2) value, 3) authority, 4) order, 5) ceremony, 6) love, 7) honor, 8) humor, 9) beauty, and 10) spirit.12) Students decide to name the culture (Nimvat, for example). (If names are suggested which cause silliness, ask that a new name be created. If a name seems silly only to the teacher, then the name can be kept.)
The teacher can lead the drama in two ways: from outside and from within role (as described in “SAMPLE LESSON #1”). There is an advantage to each method. From outside the teacher plays himself or herself, holding on to the traditional authority assumed by the role s/he is really playing. If the teacher uses a role within the drama, as s/he did as the spider child in the Ananse story, s/he becomes more equal to the students and can “guide” the drama as a participant. In this role the teacher actually gets an opportunity to “play” with the students. This is much more difficult for most teachers as it means giving up authority. (It is actually a safe way to experience this kind of drama, as the teacher role is always available.)
In the first lesson each participant takes a specialized role in the community: map maker(s), house builder(s), clothes maker(s), law maker(s), doctor(s), teacher(s), inventor(s), explorer(s), leader(s), constitution writer(s), flag maker(s), food grower(s), etc. It is best to make small groups of workers, unless a student works better alone or in a pair.
After all of these people meet with the leader the first drama ends. Before the second drama each student draws a picture or creates an artifact which will be used in the second drama. The map-maker makes a map of the first town, the clothes maker draws a picture of the clothing worn by boys and girls, the flag maker designs a flag. Each drama from this point on will need to have TENSION to give dramatic form. Possible points of tension include: water supply is dwindling, possible attack by another culture, disease, the celebration of the first holiday, a group of people within the culture decide to revolt, or the leader becomes very sick.