With Christine Sinclair

February 11 / 54

Dr Christine Sinclair is Head of Drama Education at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. She is also Director of Publications at Drama Australia.

While still a year away, we can be confident the new national arts curriculum will, for the first time, mandate children’s entitlement to the arts in all Australian schools.

This opens up a range of new opportunities for rich learning opportunities for students from Kinder to Year 12. Studying the arts is not a single and linear process, which occurs in isolation to everything else. After all, in life we don’t use our literacy skills for an hour to the exclusion of all other skills, and then our maths skills for the next hour; both literacy and numeracy are best learned in purposeful, meaningful contexts.

And so it is with the arts. The example used here is taken from the perspective of a drama educator, but similar examples can be found across arts disciplines.

Drama can inform and shape learning within a school community in diverse and exciting ways. One project with notable positive mental health outcomes was a collaboration at Monbulk College, between the school’s drama teacher and his Year 10 class, the school’s student wellbeing staff, health promotion staff from Eastern Health and myself.

The Year 10 class was tasked with developing a play about the transition from primary to high school for Year 6 students. While the project was presented to the Year 10 class as an important event for the Year 6 class as they adjusted to high school, it was also designed to encourage the older students to become peer leaders and address potentially challenging issues from their earlier years of high school.

The Year 10 class conducted research by interviewing younger students at Monbulk and at a local primary school.  Drawing on these findings and their own experiences, they developed a play (with the support of their teacher and me), which was performed to the Year 6 class, followed by a Q & A session, and the chance for the students from both years to mix at an ‘after-party’.

The impact of the project on both year levels was so great it continues to form part of the school’s annual transition program. In particular, the school’s drama teacher noticed positive changes among some of his most disaffected students. Attendance in the whole class improved significantly during the time the students were working on the play. Students not known for their co-operative spirit began working together as they created props, costumes and new scenes requiring extra rehearsals.

We see our role in Arts Education as introducing teacher candidates and practising teachers to a diverse range of educational and artistic practices, situated within an understanding of just how the arts inform and shape other parts of the curriculum, the school and the wider community. It’s a task that, as we edge closer towards the implementation of the national curriculum, becomes ever more exciting.











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