While a theater teacher might not have seemed a likely candidate for Dr. Turekian’s seminar “Global Change, Human and The Coastal Ocean,” had Homer not spun a fanciful yarn pitting Odysseus against a tumultuous sea, Aeschylus, Aristophanes and Euripides might never have picked up a pen, a chisel? Needless to say, drama and the ocean are no strangers. From the
to the apocalyptic film,
, the blue planet on which we live has inspired playwrights, film makers, poets, pioneers and scientists alike. It is my intention to explore this union of drama and the Earth’s oceans in order to engage my students at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School on both analytical and aesthetic levels.
A Dramatic World
has been designed to build aesthetic awareness of science topics through creative dramatics such as theater games, improvisational exercises, reading plays and short stories, writing, and scene work. While each lesson in this curriculum is concerned with making interdisciplinary correlations largely between Science and theater, the subtextual content of these lessons is intended to foster a sense of appreciation and responsibility in the student for the world in which he or she lives. By making these kinds of connections, I, along with my colleagues, hope to engender critical as well as imaginative thinking within our classes. Our students have inherited a world of complex problems that will demand of them unique and innovative solutions in order to create the future (which has always been the onus of the young). They come to us from diverse backgrounds with sundry interests. It is our mission as educators, not only to build a strong foundation for knowledge by teaching them how to learn, but to help them to develop their innate talents so that they may bring their special gifts to the world. Perhaps the purpose of this unit can best be expressed by our esteemed professor, Karl K. Turekian, as he states in the prologue of his book,
Global Environmental Change
“We depend on the chroniclers, the storytellers, and the poets to give us a sense of place and purpose. We depend on the chroniclers of the physical environment to describe the anatomy, physiology, and pathologies of our planet. Indeed, our perceptions of the place of humans on Earth is strongly conditioned by our views of the history of Earth, whether we are immediately aware of it or not. Our goal is to consider how this grand view of Earth can affect our thinking about the politics and sociology of global change. We must consider what we can reasonably do to influence or ameliorate global environmental change for the benefit of humans as dwellers and caretakers of Earth, and how we can live with what we cannot change.
With this in mind, the goal of the unit is to empower students in their mission of becoming Earth’s future caretakers. Therefore, the culminating activity of an eighth grade town meeting addressing the ecological viability of Long Island Sound is the final objective shared by Lisa Alter (Science), Mary-Alice Howley (Reading), Linda MacNaughton (Study Skills) and myself. (See “An Eighth Grade Town Meeting on Long Island Sound,” the introduction to all four units.)
My theater classes are offered once per week for approximately fifty minutes per class. Since I do not see my students as often as my colleagues see their students, I decided to begin this curriculum in the first marking period and extend it throughout the first semester. My main objective in the first marking period is to focus on an appreciation of the Earth itself. I feel this is requisite to the kind of social awareness of our planet’s ecology that students will be introduced to in the second marking period. Overall, the curriculum addresses four main areas. The first three have been closely aligned to topics that will be presented concurrently to eighth graders in their Science classes, namely: the formation of the universe; the evolution of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the world’s oceans. The last curricular area addresses global citizenship and Long Island Sound, and is largely concerned with the production of our interdisciplinary culminating activity, the eighth grade town meeting. Although not every lesson in the unit has been massaged to work it’s way directly into the town meeting production, it is my hope that students will utilize some of the mythological, philosophical, and dramatic materials that they will be covering in their theater classes, to incorporate into the work they will be doing in their science classes, and where applicable, in their Reading or Study Skills classes as well.
All the activities presented in this unit are aligned to the National Arts Education Content Standards for Theater, which include: script writing; acting by developing basic acting skills to portray characters; set design; directing; researching by using cultural and historical information; comparing and incorporating art forms; analyzing, evaluating, and constructing meanings from dramatic works; and understanding context by analyzing the role of theater, film, television, and electronic media in the community and in other cultures. (
National Content Standards for Arts Education,
The Consortium of National Arts Education, 1994.)
Along with other sources of information, several eighth grade textbooks will be used by students in this curriculum unit. The eighth grade science texts to be used come from the Prentice Hall Science series and include:
Exploring the Universe; Exploring Planet Earth; Dynamic Earth; Exploring Earth’s Weather.
The eighth grade social studies text,
Exploring American History,
will also be employed. (All texts are included in the bibliography.) Also, an appendix containing reduced versions of the handouts mentioned in this unit appears at the end of the unit.
Lastly, student work resulting from the writing and creative dramatics activities in this unit may either be included in our town meeting presentations, or may also be offered in dramatic performances that are given at various times throughout the year, such as our “Theater Night” and “Studio Week,” or Library Media Center performances. Student writing may be included in our school’s anthology,
The Poets’ Posse,
which I produce every year.