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Monday, March 28, 2016

performance art with kids

In the two weeks before our big move, our co-op conceived, wrote, created, rehearsed, and performed a collection of performance art pieces on the topic of animal rights. At times, it really felt like we had taken on too much (packing a pod, finding a new house, painting canvases, researching, making shadow puppets, getting some animal dental surgeries taken care of...oy!).

But, I kept thinking.

When we are in the toughest moments of our lives, what is the first thing to stop?

Usually the thing you need the most (art, eating properly, writing, hanging out with friends). Does this happen to you, too? So, whenever I thought, "oh! this is too much!" I readjusted my thoughts and said, "this is exactly what we need to be doing." By engaging in such a creative and important project, we were able to deeply connect with our very dear friends who we would be leaving soon. We also kept so busy that we were able to make our move with minimal emotional upheaval.

It was a whole different way of approaching life, and I am sold. Keep the art when stresses are high and you will come out the other end with fewer scratches.

I have included some notes on our project, because I am committed to sharing exploratory, project-based learning with older kids on this blog. There is a lack of middle and high school homeschooling representations online (please share any resources you like), and I will try my best to report on the ideas and approaches that work for us. 

Animal rights are not a new subject for most of the kids in the co-op. We have supported a Florida based sanctuary for chimps coming out of the entertainment industry, my kids have created signs and protested outside the circus, we have had heated discussions on the use of Orca whales at Seaworld, and several of the kids have become vegan. These kids love animals! 

We talked about all the ways you can protest and bring attention to issues that are important. From passively leaving zines in public, to holding signs, to supporting (and pulling support from) organizations, to sharing your personal story and to creating artwork and perforative experiences. As a group, we decided that we wanted to create an evening of performance based art to share the spectrum of our beliefs and stories. 

We had three groups of kids (2-3 each) who each created a performance piece. They chose to work with issues surrounding animal rights. Veganism, animal testing, animals in entertainment, seal hunting and the arctic and the big cats of Florida were all showcased.

The kids made zines, wrote poetry, wrote a shadow puppet play, and created dialogued content sharing pieces. They also painted canvases to decorate the gallery and auction off, cooked a few vegan goodies and passed out samples of homemade laundry detergent. After the performance, which lasted approximately a half an hour, people were invited to stay, mingle through the gallery and chat - which they did!~

It is important to know, that the topic and the shape of the performance was kid driven all the way. And during the whole project, I kept thinking how amazingly lucky these young people were to have such support for their voices and ideas. They created knowing there would be a real audience at the end and that their work could impact and change minds. They were taken seriously and the key to the power of possibility was placed firmly in their hands. What a gift for tweens/teens!

We hired a local theatre instructor and rented a space to meet. Both of these were relatively inexpensive because we have relationships with the women we worked with. You can do this on your own too. There is no reason you can not meet in the park, the library or your own living room. And you can lead the kids yourself, we just wanted to offer our kids the chance to work with another adult mentor. 

We met 3x a week for 2 weeks and ended with the performance. Our schedule was squished together because of my family's impending move (originally we were going to spread the class out over 6 weeks) and I think that the energy with this compacted schedule. I am not sure it would have been as sustainable and passionate if we took longer. We were consumed daily with the causes that were so important to us, and it drove us to get our work done. 

We have a local arts organization that opened their doors and invited our troupe to perform. We packed the space with our friends, families and ripples of personal connections throughout the community. The kids were amazed to see so many people come out and support their work and their vision. The raised hundreds of dollars through art sales and donations that went directly to the organizations they chose. And they have been invited to perform at other local arts festivals. This just might be the beginning for them! 

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