Walden Theatre collaborated with 8th grade Social Studies teacher at Knight Middle School to create pantomimes exploring a series of historical events in United States history. Funding for the collaboration came, in part, from a PNC/Fund for the Arts Teacher Arts Grant and a scholarship from Walden Theatre.
Students first learned how to pantomime gestures in class using several games facilitated by Walden Theatre representatives and then learned how to block a scene. Finally students were grouped and given a scene to perform. Each group read about a historical event and created an improvised pantomime on their assigned historical event. In the end students created 20 different improvised pantomimes on historical events starting from the French and Indian War through the development of the Bill of Rights. Students had the opportunity to depict battles, the Constitutional Convention and even how a bill becomes a law.
Students responded surprisingly well to this project, demonstrating courage to perform live in front an audience of their peers. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Can we do this again?” one student said. During the process students who normally lack motivation demonstrated engagement unlike I had seen before. Students thoroughly enjoyed pantomiming history and asking why certain individuals/groups did what they did. One particular example was when students learned that muskets shot during a battle did not shoot like weapons today and that they needed to be loaded. The endeavor was worth all the time and money spent. Students were not only exposed to historical events in American history, but public speaking and drama.
8th Grade Social Studies Teacher