Academic journal article Australian Journal of Environmental Education

Drama and Environment: Joining Forces to Engage Children and Young People in Environmental Education

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Environmental Education

Drama and Environment: Joining Forces to Engage Children and Young People in Environmental Education

Article excerpt

The world is in a state of serious environmental decline with the plight of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation (Worldwatch Institute, 2012). There is an increasing realisation that the arts have an important role in influencing beliefs and attitudes towards the environment that may complement legislative or policy tools (Kagan & Kirchberg, 2008). Mirroring this realisation is interest in incorporating the arts in environmental education, although in Australia and internationally there are relatively few practitioners who use drama as a tool in environmental education (Adcock & Ballantyne, 2007) and reviews of environmental education typically overlook such use (e.g., Gralton, Sinclair & Purnell, 2004; Rickinson, 2001).

The Australian New South Wales (NSW) Drama curriculum (NSW Board of Studies, 2003) provides opportunities for societal issues, and the environment in particular, to be studied in the drama classroom through performative studies. Accordingly, drama teachers are increasingly using the skills developed in the drama curriculum to tackle broader educational and societal issues (McCammon & McLauchlan, 2006). The NSW Environmental Education Policy (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2001) provides guidance on incorporating environmental education across the curriculum, not only through science, geography, but also the creative arts. This approach is also reflected nationally (Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005) and internationally (UNESCO, 2010). Thus, there is a recognised overlap between the approved drama and environmental education curricula, which this article seeks to explore.

The utilisation of drama in environmental education can take many different forms. In 'theatre-in-education' ('demonstration theatre'), professional theatre practitioners develop a work, typically in consultation with experts such as scientists, and perform it to school students (Australia Council for the Arts, 2003; Nicholson, 2011; O'Toole, 1976). For example, Wan Smolbag is a theatre group from Vanuatu that travels the Pacific Islands raising awareness about health and environmental issues (http://www. wansmolbag.org/DynamicPages.asp). Other examples are provided by Adcock & Ballantyne (2007), and Peleg and Baram-Tsabari (2011). A variation on theatre-in-education is where a teacher or performer uses drama or music to enrich the presentation of material. Examples include Ramsey (2002), who used folk songs to help educate young people about ecosystem fragility, and the group Morganics, who used hip hop song-writing and performance to engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people in issues about health and the environment (Vanclay, Lane, Wills, Coates, & Lucas, 2004). Groupdevised theatre (also called 'play-building', 'pedagogical theatre' or 'process theatre') is where the participants develop a piece of theatre (Burton, 2011). They may be given a partially developed script and then develop it further, or they may just be given some introductory information to stimulate their imagination. Other ways of using drama in science or environmental education are through historical drama (Begoray & Stinner, 2005) and role play and drama simulations of particular phenomena (sometimes called 'creative drama based instruction'; Appleby, 2005; Cokadar & Yilmaz, 2010; Dorion, 2009; Hoot & Foster, 1993; Metcalfe, Abbott, Bray, Exley, & Wisnia, 1984; Odegaard, 2003; Ozdemir & Ustundag 2007; Vargas, 1995). Drama can also explore environmental themes when incorporated into large multi-arts performance works; for example, the Long Line event that dealt with ecology, microbiology and human history of Morecambe Bay in the United Kingdom (http://www.welfare-state.org/index.htm).

There is an extensive literature on the positive educational benefits of studying the arts at school (Fiske, 1999; Deasy, 2002), and the arts are recognised as having an important role in 'transformative learning'--that is, encouraging a 'deep structural shift in core thoughts, feelings and activities' (Ewing, 2010, p. …

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