Thursday, July 30, 2009

BBC Breakfast Show

On our last morning in Stratford-upon-Avon, Karen Bell (above, right), associate vice president at OSU, and Jacqui O'Hanlon, director of education at the Royal Shakespeare Company, were interviewed live on-air for a BBC breakfast radio show. The host asked them questions about Ohio State's partnership with the RSC, the group of Ohio teachers who participated in the first portion of the education program, and Shakespeare education in America. We hope to obtain a link to the BBC program shortly.

Before leaving the UK, we had a farewell dinner at the Dirty Duck for the teachers, OSU faculty and staff, and our colleagues at the RSC. With Bell (below) are the Royal Shakespeare Company's Vikki Heywood, executive director, and Sir Christopher Bland, chairman.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

O-H-I-O in the UK

Whoever thought you’d see an O – H during a performance by the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company? It happened last night on stage during the curtain call when one of the actors – who had worked with our group of Ohio schoolteachers that morning – snuck in an O – H during the end-of-performance curtain call! Our group had the huge pleasure of seeing Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Courtyard Theatre – an absolutely brilliant production directed by the RSC’s artistic director, Michael Boyd. A few of the actors mingled with our teachers after the play at the venerable Dirty Duck down the lane. Prior to the show, a few of the teachers (above) rendered their own O-H-I-O with the help of a UK landmark.

Most of the crew involved in the OSU / RSC partnership’s teacher education program have mixed feelings about leaving tomorrow. Ready to see their families, certainly, but sad to leave the members of the close-knit ensemble that’s been created over the past 5 days under the expert guidance of the RSC’s education department. One teacher said, “I’m ready to go home but I wish I could take the whole group home with me and we could continue in my living room.”

Luckily, the troupe doesn’t dissipate when the plane takes off from Heathrow. The teachers will meet at Ohio State all of next week to continue building their ensemble and creating educational strategies. They’ll meet for a number of weekends throughout the year, and several RSC actors and educators will visit Ohio State in November.

Teacher Features

Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers who are involved as part of the first cohort in the OSU / RSC partnership program.

Melissa Henderson, English, Linden McKinley High School

“This week has really opened up my eyes to different ways of teaching the things I’ve been teaching. We’ve been analyzing text, studying character development and so on. . . but (those tasks) are sort of sneaked in while you’re having fun, and that’s what the RSC has taught us. The students will love it. They’re so used to just sitting there being spoon-fed information. With these techniques they’ll get up, get moving, have fun, participate as a group. . . and learn.” (Hi Mom)

Harry Gee, English, Trailblazer Alternative School, Reynoldsburg

"This week has energized me to go back to school; I’m excited to use the tools and ideas we’ve learned. I was a bit apprehensive at the start because I wasn’t sure my students (Trailblazer Alternative, where at-risk students get a chance to catch up and graduate) would be open to theatre activities. But now I think they’ll really be engaged. As a group, the teachers this week have really built a sense of community. It’s been fun. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rivers and research and more

The teacher education program this week in Stratford-upon-Avon -- spearheaded by the Arts Initiative -- consists of intense and very active daily sessions with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s education practitioners. After hours, the group of 20 teachers and 8 OSU faculty and staff enjoys walking along the River Avon, where lazy barges are anchored (above), or gathering in local restaurants to discuss the day’s activities (below).
A key part of the program is focused on research. In fact, Ohio State’s reputation as a research leader was very attractive to the RSC, which will explore how the Stand Up for Shakespeare philosophy can be introduced in American schools. The research team from OSU (left, l-r) includes Pat Enciso, lead researcher; Mindi Rhoades, documentarian; Brian Edmiston, education director; and Camille Cushman, research assistant.

Also involved in the partnership program are two faculty members from the OSU Department of Theatre, (below, l-r) Mo Ryan and Robin Post. The duo will be working with the participating teachers and their schools, as well as with the incoming group of 10 MFA acting students at Ohio State, who will be involved in the RSC endeavor.

Explaining the importance of the research, Enciso says, “We talk about how to look at complex texts, and, similarly, this project is really a complex teaching and learning program. We are striving to understand it beyond the wonderful activities we’re experiencing here in Stratford. We need to document the ways the teachers are using the language, the ways they’re using space, how they’re asking new questions and taking up new roles. Our aim is to understand how to construct and maintain strong ensembles for teaching and learning, focusing on complex texts, collaboration and building of community. We also want to provide information to the RSC about expanding the understanding of artistic practice in teaching and learning from the UK to schools in the US.”

Teacher Features

Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers who are involved as part of the first cohort in the OSU / RSC partnership program.

Cory Neugebauer, history and government, Metro High School, Columbus

“I think this program is great – it pushes traditional boundaries. I know it’s pushing mine. I’m a logic-based individual, but the focus of education is the students and you have to be willing to push boundaries to facilitate learning for a wide range of learning styles. What’s comfortable for me may not be the best way for each student. You have to get beyond yourself, and try new things and see how new approaches might work. I have absolutely no arts background so this experience is something I can really learn from and grow from. I can absolutely see using it in my history and government classes. For example, Julius Caesar can be used to study power structures and the dynamics of politics.”

Aubrey Gibson, third grade, Graham Road Elementary, Reynoldsburg

“We’ve all definitely grown closer as an ensemble this week. The more we get to know each other, the more comfortable we are performing for each other, and expressing our ideas. I’m also really interested to be exploring the subject matter in different ways – we’ll look at a text, explore the words, use drama, use body movement. . . That will have a lot of applications back at school. For example, there are boys in my class who really have to move. I can apply these techniques in every aspect of my teaching to keep them engaged and involved.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creating an Ensemble in Stratford

Virginia Grainger, lead practitioner with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s education department (shown above, left, with Karen Bell, associate vice president at Ohio State), has been working closely with the group of central Ohio schoolteachers who are in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, this week. The group is involved in the teacher education program at the core of the partnership between OSU and the RSC.

Grainger is impressed with the new, international program. “I’m very interested in how this project is unfolding because it is a five-day intensive experience,” she said. “It’s akin to a rehearsal room – you put people together and they start to create a shared vocabulary; it allows relationships to build and trust to build. Because of that, we can really ‘stretch’ people. Because of the amount of time spent together, they can begin to do things they wouldn’t have dreamed they could do at the beginning of the week.

“One teacher said to me,” Grainger continues, “that one of the (drama) activities took them far outside their comfort zone, but they stuck with it because they trusted us, they trusted the group.

"There's something really special about the relationship that’s building because of this group’s time together. They are creating an ensemble.”

The group has spent the last two days exploring Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar through drama, movement, persuasion and rhetoric.
Teacher Features

Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers who are involved as part of the first cohort in the OSU / RSC partnership program.

Janet Benedict, music, Baldwin Road Junior High School, Reynoldsburg

“First of all, it’s so amazing just to be here in Stratford and walk the floors that Shakespeare walked, and go to the performances. It brings life to the written word. As a group, we are really building a sense of community. The Reynoldsburg teachers, who are from different schools, are really getting to know each other. It’s exciting to be building a team with them, and the educational potential that that holds. It’s interesting to see what a powerful group of teachers we have.”

Kristina Bossa, 5th grade math and science, Windsor STEM Academy, Columbus Public Schools

“The (strategies) we’re learning are going to be a great way to keep our students engaged. I think it will be a good way to reach those hard-to-reach students, the ones who are reluctant to be an active part of class. I think they will love it!”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Julius Caesar Plus....

Twenty OSU undergraduate students (above), who are in the UK with a Department of English study abroad program led by faculty member Mark Conroy, today met up with the group of folks in Stratford-upon-Avon who are part of the OSU / Royal Shakespeare Company partnership. The two groups talked and had a bite of lunch in the (surprisingly) warm and sunny weather before heading to the Courtyard Theatre for an intense performance of Julius Caesar.

Before lunch, the central Ohio schoolteachers participating in the partnership education program, worked with RSC actor David Rubin (left), who played the part of Trebonius in Julius Caesar. The morning group explored Shakespeare’s Caesar through activities including character landscapes and dramatizing the play in 20 minutes (below). Said Reynoldsburg teacher Amy McKibbon, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had with anything related to education. And that’s the truth.”

Each day’s activities and strategies are based upon the RSC’s "Stand up for Shakespeare" program, which the teachers can take back to their students and classrooms in Ohio. McKibbon added, “I’m already looking forward to school starting in the fall.”
Teacher Features

Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers who are involved in the first cohort of the OSU / RSC partnership program.

Tim Wangler, literature and theatre, Linden-McKinley High School, Columbus Public Schools

“These interactive and physical experiences are wonderful strategies that will engage our students. And the RSC leaders have been amazing, they are so knowledgeable and professional; you couldn’t ask for anything more. Their energy is wonderful.”

Andrea McAllister, English/language arts, Metro High School

“The strategies we’re learning are great, and I think they may be perfect for work with my Team Advisory Group, where I serve as an advocate between home and school. These activities can help with team building, fostering a sense of ensemble, and fostering inquiry and collaboration. I may use (summaries of) all of Shakespeare’s plays and use the activities all year with the group.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Teacher Ed Program Kicks Off in UK

The ensemble-based teacher education program began today for 20 central Ohio public schoolteachers at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in the UK. At the core of a partnership between Ohio State and the RSC, the five-day training program focuses on collaboration, community and complex texts, and is based on the RSC’s "Stand Up for Shakespeare" program. Says Brian Edmiston (left), professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology, who is involved in directing the three-year program, “Right from the beginning, this program is a shared journey, with shared purpose – for OSU, the RSC and the teachers. The group already is starting to create an ensemble, and under the leadership of the RSC, immediately has jumped into the complexities of The Winter’s Tale, which we had the honor of seeing yesterday.”

On the program’s first day, the group explored The Winter’s Tale through a variety of collaborative techniques, including drama and movement, active listening and focusing on different points of view.

The program is spearheaded by the OSU Arts Initiative, and is directed in the UK by Jacqui O’Hanlon, Virginia Grainger and Rachel Gartside of the RSC. O’Hanlon (right) explained during the first day of training, that Ohio State and the RSC have a shared commitment to artistic practice and teaching & learning. The new program will create a bridge, she said, between the classroom and artistic practice, and will reflect four key RSC values: collaboration, inquiry, engagement and ambition.

Teacher Features

Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers who are involved as part of the first cohort in the OSU / RSC partnership program.

Amy McKibbon, 5th and 6th grade literature, Hannah Ashton Middle School, Reynoldsburg City Schools

“I love the first day so far, it’s so active and engaging and collaborative. It’s easy for me to see how this ensemble approach can apply to so many areas. I can see using it to explore other literature, like Treasure Island, or to debate historical events in a social studies class. Or even use it in a science class to explore big questions about the environment or space exploration or cloning.”
Danielle Berring, intervention specialist, Linden-McKinley High School, Columbus City Schools

“I didn’t know quite what to expect on the first day and thought we might be exploring traditional interpretations of the text. But we are creating our own interpretations, and finding something new about The Winter’s Tale. It’s fantastic. I don’t have an arts background, and I’m happy to start making the connection between the artistic point of view and science and math. I wouldn’t have tried to cross that border otherwise.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

OSU and Ohio Teachers Embrace Shakespeare

Through a unique partnership between Ohio State and the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company, 20 public schoolteachers from central Ohio are spending the next week working as an educational ensemble in the Bard’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Led by the Arts Initiative at Ohio State, the group is the first in America to train under the RSC’s renowned program for school children called “Stand Up for Shakespeare.”

Says Karen Bell (below), associate vice president and leader of the Arts Initiative, “This is an incredible opportunity for all of us – the school teachers, Ohio State, the RSC and ultimately school children in Ohio – to embrace the Royal Shakespeare Company’s educational philosophies and work hand-in-hand with RSC educators and actors. We are currently immersing ourselves into Shakespeare’s hometown, taking in the sights and sounds and history, and are really looking forward to the educational program that starts tomorrow.”

That program, called Stand Up for Shakespeare,” encourages people to:
• Do it on your feet – explore plays actively and practically in the classroom, as actors do
• See it live – see live performances
• Start it earlier – introduce Shakespeare to younger age groups.

The week-long teacher education program, facilitated by Brian Edmiston, College of Education and Human Ecology, will promote literacy, drama education and leadership in Ohio public schools. Teachers will work each day with educators and actors from the RSC. While in Stratford, the group will also see several performances by the RSC, including The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar and As You Like It.

Teachers (shown above in front of Shakespeare’s birthplace), come from three central Ohio STEM schools and include: Meka Pace, Cory Neugebauer and Andrea McAllister (Metro High School); Danielle Berring, Melissa Henderson, Kate Moore, Timothy Wangler, Megan Ballinger, Amanda Blake, Kristina Bossa and Robyn Lewis (Linden McKinley High School and its feeder Schools in Columbus City Schools); and Kathy Hoover, Harry Gee, Matt Freeman, Lauraine Camm, Amy McKibben, Anna Meyer, Janet Benedict, Lorraine Gaughenbaugh and Aubrey Gibson (Reynoldsburg City Schools).

We’ll be following their experiences daily for the next week on this blog.
Boats on the River Avon.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's Theatre is undergoing major reconstruction at the moment. We will see performances at the amazing thrust-stage Courtyard Theatre.