Finding your STREAM • Theatre games build relationships
This workshop occurred in August 2018 with William Penn University Education Department in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
As educators, I'm sure you've been aware of STEM for quite some time. I'm also sure that you know about the push toward STEAM, and that there generally is no shortage of acronyms used in education.
Through my work at William Penn University, I've learned about a different type of STREAM where the "R" stands for "relationships." I'm never sure how on board I am with all of these buzzwords (maybe because I never really know what everything means because it changes all the time), but the word "relationships" stands out to me.
Theatre is a team sport -- collaboration is key. No team can realistically collaborate without a bond tying everyone together, so if collaboration is the key, then relationships are the metal that makes up the key.
I recently met a teacher working in a small town who was thrust into directing their high school's play. They don't have any theatre experience, but their background led them into being the designated "theatre person." (We absolutely could talk about small communities and the gaps in training for those teachers asked to jump into an art field unfamiliar to them, or how freelance artists aren't trained to adequately fill these needs in their small communities, but that's a different topic.) The point is that a teacher working in a small town suddenly becomes deputized as a theatre director, without any additional training. They ask me, "How do I make all of this work?"
My answer holds true for teaching any skill or subject: it all comes back to relationships, both teacher to students and student to student. If students have good relationships with the team around them, they will be more successful. Good relationships build trust, and they allow students to take risks, because they know they are in a safe environment.
This is where theatre games come in: they are actively designed to build relationships in a risk-free environment where people can learn to succeed and fail together.
Let's learn some games! Check out past Issues of the Camp Guide for game facilitation instructions for Barricade, Chocolate River, and Shark Attack.
Wrapping up a game should never be taken lightly. This is the time to start building or testing your students' critical thinking skills. Ask honest questions: was the game truly challenging? Did they succeed or fail? How could the game run more smoothly or be re-wired to be more fun? Ask them about that. Even if it's quiet, be patient, and you'll get some answers.
My favorite debrief questions:
What worked well?
What didn't work well?
Were you successful?
What can you do next time to be more successful?
Why did we do this? (Usually, I don't give them my reason, I let them assign their own meaning.)
Remember to challenge their answers with a well-placed "tell me more" if you want to dig deeper. Don't be satisfied with a rule change to answer the question of how they could be more successful. You can't change physics, or the rules of the universe to be more successful at life, and you can't change the physics, or rules, of the game, because it's hard. How can they better use the system that exists?
Dial up the challenge
When you feel your students know the structure of your games well enough, then start playing with the games' physics: meld games together, change a familiar rule, or just start enforcing the rules more emphatically. Students love the challenge and almost always work to rise higher. Just know what you're changing, and why you're changing it. Some of the best games I've played were variants of the original that worked because of the unique students playing it.
Have fun out there!
Okay, let's see if it works! Try some games! Build some relationships! Let me know if you have any questions, or if you have new tricks to try!