Reported by: Marty Johnson, Director of Education, iTheatrics
February 10, 2012
I get asked what my job is a lot, especially as I visit all of these new schools across the country. Am I a director, an educator, an administrator, or am I actually a performer on “Smash?” I always comment, I’m all of the above plus more, it just depends on which day of the week it is. (OK. Except for being on “Smash.” I’m not on the show.)
With my administrator hat on, I got directions and found my way to Trillium Charter School located in Portland, Oregon. Trillium is a K-12 school in NoPo, or North Portland, with an enrollment rate of about 250 students a year.
Next as the educator, I met Language Arts teacher, Kirk Ellis, and Social Studies teacher, Kurt Maier, who will be guiding their students through the musical this spring. One of the core philosophies of the school is Constructivist Education. As an educator, I was familiar with the concept, but I asked Kirk and Kurt to explain it to me to be sure I understood. They said, “Basically, constructivism treats students as active participants rather than passive recipients. They get a choice in how they will learn and are always engaged as in the process. The students make meaning of their learning experiences through additional interactions with teachers, parents, the community, and each other.” This philosophy encourages educators to teach the student, not just the subject.
Later as the director, I met the students for their section of the workshop, and it was clear they were ready to join me on our afternoon journey. They were polite, attentive, and so excited to finally be working on the musical. One of the early activities in our workshop asks the students to create statues (or tableaus) that tell the story of a common fairytale. There is a four step process we take the students through, it starts out with the director leading most everything and ends with the students doing it on their own and even critiquing their own performances. Not surprisingly, the students handled this activity flawlessly.
When the students finished and we were reflecting on all of the things they did, I noticed Kirk and Kurt were smiling and laughing. As we got ready to move on to the next activity, they came over to me and said, “That’s Constructivist Education. What you and the students just did. You guided them. They experienced. They learned. This musical is going to be amazing!”
Trillium was a great school for me to end on for this leg of the workshop tour. Because now when people ask me what I do, I can just say “I’m a Constructivist.”
NBC’s ‘SMASH’ MAKE A MUSICAL program is administered by iTheatrics under the supervision of Timothy Allen McDonald. For more information, or to apply to become a part of the program, logon to www.MAKEAMUSICAL.ORG.