S.T.R.E.A.M is a theme that runs through our middle school at Allendale Columbia. (S.T.R.E.A.M is an offshoot of S.T.E.M and S.T.E.A.M education initiatives, except adding the R for outside resources.), I found yet another example of how this is a best practice for creating a sense of community and authenticity for our students.

The Middle School Play is an annual event, which includes the entire student body of the middle school. In early January, students are given the opportunity to choose their area of focus; they can be in the play as an actor, they can work and learn how to run the tech booth with lighting and sound, or they can create and build the set. Students also have the opportunity to make the programs, posters, and handle the ticket sales for the performances. Other students may opt to create costumes and apply stage makeup the night of the performance. There are also opportunities in the prop crew, making all the props need for the play.  After students make their decisions, work begins for the production in March.

It is incredible to watch what goes on behind the scenes of a middle school production, but it is even more remarkable to watch what students can accomplish when given the tools and opportunity to create it for themselves. The buzz of saws and hammers can be heard outside as students carve out a landscape of mushrooms and plants for Alice in Wonderland, Jr.  The costume crew hunkers down in the art room, creating the most wonderful sea creatures out of paper mache.  The set crew gather up common household items and transformed them into sometime completely different. Up in the tech booth, students adjust lights, learn how to read cues, and tackled the difficulty of setting up for a dozen different microphones.  The poster and program crew begin plugging away at editing cast bios and creating formats for posters. There is math and science, technology, English, music, and art taught and demonstrated every step of the way; yet none of it is done in the traditional classroom setting.

The Tech Crew learns about the sound and lighting board

The Tech Crew learns about the sound and lighting board

Costume Crew at work in the Art Room

Costume Crew at work in the Art Room

The Set Crew begins creating the set for Alice in Wonderland, Jr.

The Set Crew begins creating the set for Alice in Wonderland, Jr.

Our Drama Director has a wonderful connection with Allendale Columbia Alum Alexandra Miller,  and she was able to come in for a full day of acting lessons with the middle school cast.  Alexandra is currently an actress on the CW’s, The Carrie Diaries.  Miss Miller spent the day with the young actors giving them pointers, teaching them how to project and show confidence, and gave them a chance to ask questions about the acting profession.  Alexandra was outstanding with the students; having been on that stage herself when she was younger. For our students, having that connection is such a valuable and authentic resource, and it makes the entire experience that much more relevant to them.

Dancing direction and body language with Alexandra Miller.

Dancing direction and body language with Alexandra Miller.

Alexandra Miller from the WB's The Carrie Diaries give a workshop for Middle Students at Allendale Columbia

Alexandra Miller from the CW’s The Carrie Diaries give a workshop for Middle Students at Allendale Columbia School

Turning cardboard into Clam shells with the costume crew

Turning cardboard into Clam shells with the costume crew

In March, when the show must go on, these students will take all that they have learned and come together to put on an outstanding show.  Thanks to Amy Oliveri and Jeannie Clinton for taking pictures!

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About Tina Duver

Tina Duver is the Dean of Middle School Students at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York. She is the 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher and coach of the First Lego League team and U.S. Department of Energy Science Bowl team.

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