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DRAMA THERAPY: TEACHING KIDS ALL THE RIGHT LESSONS

Repercussion Theatre

Anti-bullying play at Westmount Park School on Wed. June 8
Drama therapy: Teaching kids all the right lessons

MONTREAL, JUNE 7, 2011Carlos Wilson makes no qualms about it – therapy is a dicey subject. Yet, in Wilson’s unique approach, there’s no couch or notepad, in fact, if you were to ask the children at Westmount Park  Elementary School (15 Park Place) there’s no therapist either.

Drama therapy, a component which can be found under the overall umbrella of creative therapy, is one the newest and most innovative techniques meant to directly address in-school issues.  Drama therapy at the elementary level allows children, under the guise of theatre, to sort through and resolve various issues themselves.

“My preliminary goals included fostering creativity, the enhancement of interpersonal skills, and the encouragement of appropriate self-expression,” said Wilson. “As I began my work with these children, I quickly learned that bullying was a problem theme that had touched their lives.  In fact, both a bully and victim were members of one of the three groups.”

“Imagine the effects of casting the bully as a victim or helper in role playing scenarios as a safe way to help him or her understand that there are more adaptive roles available in life rather than being an antagonist,” he added. “I found that these methods fostered empathy and understanding.”

Working tirelessly with Wilson, the children have been constantly – and unknowingly – learning more and more lessons as they prepare for their grand performance on  Wednesday, June 8 (10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p,m,).  Purposely acting with them or standing firmly in the background, the students must create the scenarios on their own as well as resolve the conflicts by themselves, truly proving that they comprehend the subject matter and that they generate their own resolutions.

Despite the aforementioned absence of a couch, there is still one constant from the run-of-the-mill therapy session to Wilson’s classes at Westmount Park: breakthroughs.

According to Wilson, placing children in reverse roles and having bullies experience, albeit through theatre, what they doled out has led to significant real-life changes, which one can hope have been engrained in their minds forever.  Although Wilson could safely say that the students he has directly worked with have made significant leap forwards, he set his sights on affecting more lives and more victims, beginning this Wednesday with the rest of the school.

“I decided to propose to Cycles 3/4 and 5/6 that they could do anti-bullying plays. I wanted to empower the children as peer educators and solidify the breakthroughs that had been made. After all, research indicates that one of the best way to learn is to teach what is being learned to others,” said Wilson. “I also realized the powerful potential that anti-bullying performances could have for the spectators of such plays. The potential to reach a broader audience seemed too great to pass up.”

Breakthroughs experienced by Wilson are beginning to pop up throughout the English Montreal School Board through initiatives sponsored by Daphna Leibovici and her violence prevention mandate.

Drama therapy serves as the latest in a stream of creative therapeutic projects which include both Art and Music therapy sessions at Mountainview in Cöte St. Luc, Focus School in NDG,  St. Raphael in Ahuntsic and St. Brendan in Rosemount.

As each project has proved to be successful, the unique educational and preventative tool is being viewed as an essential and non-threatening way to address some of the students’ emotional needs and help develop their social and communication skills.

“Through the processes of improvization, theater games and storytelling, students express struggles in a safe, fun, non-threatening manner,” said Leibovici, a Violence Prevention Consultant at the EMSB. “The response thus far from all of our creative therapy projects across the EMSB has been extremely positive. These initiatives are designed to teach appropriate modes of communication, enhance self-esteem, improve social skills, and encourage self-exploration all while fostering a sense of accomplishment. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

On Wednesday, June 8 the students at Westmount Park School (15 Park Place) will be performing their anti-bullying plays entitled “Joining in for What’s Right” and “Lance the Lunch-Snatcher Learns.”  Guests are invited to showings either at 10:15 a.m. or at 12:30 p.m in the school’s auditorium.

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Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213
E-mail: mcohen@emsb.qc.ca