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Participatory Eco-Drama Unconventional dramatic forms that foster critical thinking and environmental learning

by Dalia Levy

puppets, then a few more, until the entire class is interacting around the puppets. Some are making the puppets talk to one another, others are coming up with funny names for their new found friends or hiding behind the puppet stage improvising a new veggie puppet show. “Hey there Broco, guess what!We gotta hide from the sprayers coming tomorrow!! I just found out. Ahhh! Arghhh!” The students clamber away loudly. It is the conclusion of a social studies workshop for Grade 4’s. We’ve had lots of fun learning about our food system and the importance of biodiversity and local agriculture. How was it done? The workshop employed performance


as a tool to explore and learn about complex issues. It empowers students to think critically and creatively, to be vulnerable and engaged, to be active about their learning about the earth. I call it eco-drama. It can take a host of forms and is a consistently inclusive forum in which every- one can participate. That’s why it works. Eco-drama can enable young people, 7 years and up, to unpack their feelings and frustrations with our perilous

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HE CHILDRENSIT INACIRCLE and stare intently at the felt vegetable puppets. “Go ahead”, I say, “pick one up with your partner.” A few groups approach the

predicament here on earth but also to foster creative local solutions or launch awareness campaigns. While it’s a relatively new concept here in North America, issue-based drama has been educating and making waves in the UK for over thirty years.With public arts funding, theatre troupes there have been making what’s coined Theatre in Education (TIE) since the late 1970’s. Historically focusing on social and environ-mental issues from pollution awareness to anti-bullying skits and group work, TIE is a good example of decades old effective experiential learning using drama. In fact, the UK is a hub with whole university departments devoted to studying transformative and educational drama and where many concepts and techniques originate. Much has been gained from the UK’s development of

contemporary social drama that can be applied to classroom settings, youth groups, adult education, community groups, festivals, summer camps and a host of other arenas. Its potential application to ecological education and the ongo- ing environmental movement is enormous and as educators we need the innovative tools that eco-drama can provide to facilitate engaged learning. Thus, I will outline here some forms that eco-drama can take; all of which have proven their effectiveness in empowering students in a participatory educational process.


Eco-drama, Glasgow, Scotland,

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