Spotlight on Arts Education
Windmill Theatre Co has just launched its 2017 Arts Education Program which features three home-grown shows for children, Big Bad Wolf, Beep and Grug and the Rainbow. Aimed at preschoolers and lower primary students, posters about the program were sent to more than 3000 schools across the state. To tell us more about this program, we spoke to Acting Arts Education Manager, Giselle Becker.
Giselle, a secondary drama teacher at St Michael’s College in Henley Beach South Australia, has a dance and drama background, with the arts being her first love.
“I wanted to be working in and around theatre. I’ve always had a passion for making and creating theatre.”
Prior to working at the company, she had taken her students to see many Windmill shows, developing a deep appreciation for the company’s works.
“My students have felt, particularly since Rose’s leadership of the company, like their voice is being represented.
“They feel engaged…I’ve been a Windmill fan for a long time.”
Windmill has a proud history of connecting their season programs with arts education, and creating shows that can be accessible for all. Crafted by its Arts Education Manager, Julie Orchard, who is currently on leave, Giselle has temporarily stepped into the role seconded by the Department of Education and Child Development. She says the program creates a strong and powerful connection between the arts, and arts education. Windmill strives to work alongside professional artists and educators to create a program that facilitates children’s introduction to the arts. To date, more than 50,000 young people around Australia and the world have benefited from its arts education program.
This year, the company devised a five-year plan aimed at creating a visionary and ambitious evolution of the program. Enabling access for everyone, encouraging interactive learning and nurturing literacy and arts appreciation are the key focus areas of the program.
Windmill’s recent co-production with State Theatre Company SA, Rumpelstiltskin, saw 58 schools attend performances, with six schools accessing their disadvantaged schools reduced price, and five taking advantage of Windmill’s free tickets program. Many of these schools were from the country and thanks to the joint efforts of both companies through the education program, not only did they attend their first ever theatre production, but for some it was their first visit to the city of Adelaide.
Giselle says it was these students who were quite often the most responsive to the performances.
“The cast would comment and isolate particular groups within the audience who were responding amazingly and when we looked up which school it was, we often found they were first time theatre-goers.”
By introducing young people to the industry early in their lives, they have the unparalleled opportunity to grow into well-rounded and balanced adults, truly believing they can achieve anything.
“The arts activate all those really important self-development tools for young people.
“We’re not just building highly functional young people for the future by using the pedagogies of the arts, but we’re activating their inner artist and helping children acknowledge they can be an artist at any point in their life.”
Windmill’s 2017 South Australian program offers a wide range of options for students, with Beep and Grug and the Rainbow for ages one to five, and Big Bad Wolf for ages five to ten.
“The program is a really exciting one.
“We’re launching our SA season with Beep…a robot that falls to earth and lands amongst other inhabitants.
“There’s this really lovely parallel to the journey of a refugee or someone new coming to an environment.
“We’re also bringing back Big Bad Wolf…[Wolfy] has a really beautiful way of seeing the world and the individuality of people.”
In addition to the Adelaide shows, Windmill will also be touring regionally and nationally with Grug and the Rainbow, and will also be taking an educator along with the production to provide teachers with some artistic and educational insights, helping them to embed the learning experience into the curriculum.
“The company plans to take out an educator to work with teachers to provide some professional learning for those educators before they bring their students in to see the show.”
The opportunity to see the artistic growth in young people is at the heart of what the Windmill Theatre Co’s Education Program aims to do. Predominantly, the program allows teachers’ access to a professional theatre company, but with the kids at the forefront of your motivation.
“What you’re doing is for the teachers, but ultimately for the kids.”
For more information regarding Windmill Theatre Co’s 2017 season or the Arts Education Program, contact Assistant Producer Ross McHenry on (08) 8210 7204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Chloe Svaikauskas