One of the biggest excitements I can recall about Jah’s Primary school days was the celebration of 100 years of the school. There were many Centenary events.
The children were very well prepared. They were introduced to elderly past-pupils and enjoyed asking them questions. Sometimes Jah came home open-eyed, with tales of how strict things were in long-ago days. He was shocked to hear about use of the cane especially.
In the attached picture, we can see how drama was used to great effect. The children were all dressed up as they would have been 100 years ago. This dressing up certainly dramatised the whole event. When we look at the photo, however we cannot sense how worried the children were, in case their teacher actually tried to use the cane.
The fact that this re-enactment stays so vividly in my mind, reminds me all over again of the importance of Arts in educating children. When the children were dressed up in their clothes of yesteryear, that impressed them, but to see their own class teacher transformed into a strict looking teacher of long ago, impressed them even more. (She had not told them that she would also be dressing up!)
To continue thinking about the benefit of the Arts, some well-arranged school trips introduce children to experiences that they might never otherwise have experienced. I know that some children today are incredibly privileged, but many are not. School days and shared experiences are so important for all children.
Other Arts-related things that I remember that enriched our children’s school days are:
- Drama groups visiting the school.
- Learning from watching a film company make a film of Anna’s choir and school orchestra (even though she was brimming over with indignation that they mostly filmed one boy to the exclusion of the rest of the class). . .
- An uproariously exciting visit by a Caribbean poet – I think it was John Agard. I do know that the children walked back to the school in a high state of delight and high spirits!
- An outing to a children’s theatre production
- An outing to the National Gallery
- A visit by the poet Benjamin Zephaniah to Sam’s Secondary school.
When Anna grew up and became a Primary school teacher, she took the children from her Tower Hamlets school into a local churchyard. Many of the children had never really looked at wild flowers before and they really enjoyed learning the names and looking at the shapes of all the different flowers. It was a learning experience for them to discover beauty all around them.
In her role as a dance educator, Lucy did a dance project in Southampton and was surprised to learn that some of the children had not even seen the sea, so she organised a trip to the sea before proceeding with the project.
Sam has grown up to be a social worker and he told me how effective a drama workshop had been for him on a training day. The actor who was acting as a client, shot up from the hospital bed and challenged something Sam said. Sam found that dramatic intervention extremely helpful. It was something he would always remember.
Long live drama and the Arts!