300 high school students engaged in learning
Every so often I have an opportunity to spend time with students. Last week I was with 300 high school students – the reason? To attend the Northeast Educational Theatre Festival that was held at the University of Southern Maine, Gorham campus. Rick Osann, arts educator from Bonny Eagle High School invited me to attend the event and I am so grateful that he did. What an experience!
I watched as the regional thespian officers formally opened the event with a skit and proceed to provide information in a collaborative manner, utilizing their stage skills throughout. Students were easily split into groups with each leader facilitating 20-minute ice breaker activities with about 25 students each. As time passed the energy in the room rose and the activities did exactly what they were planned to do – engage students in a manner that provided them to get to know each other. I wish other teachers had a chance to observe since it was such a learning opportunity for me as well.
The two-day event has several purposes: to provide opportunities for students to meet others from around New England, networking to learn from others, to provide feedback to students, and to attend valuable workshops on a variety of topics. Some of the topics include: Leadership, Directing, Clowning, Film Auditioning, Medieval Comic Theatre and Masks.
Students returned to the bleachers for the continuation of the program to hear from a couple of the adults. I said a few words that included information that my younger son had shared with me about what he learned from participating in theatre programs growing up.
Following me was a wonderful presentation given by Matt Conover from the Walt Disney Company. His key points: inspiration, finding one’s spark, and leadership resonated with me. Mr. Conover traced his own history mentioning inspirational people who had (and do) provided guidance and trusted him to take on leadership roles. They also nurtured him to follow his dreams. In college he earned a degree in lighting design and gave back to his own high school. He started in at the ground floor at Disney and 17 jobs, 25 years later he continues to love the work he does.
I was sad to leave and not be able to participate in the many workshops being offered over the next day and one half. Along with workshops, I am certain the students realized how fortunate they were for the opportunity. I know I was appreciative! The morning was a reminder of why I do what I do! Congrats to the student leadership team and the adults who worked so many hours to plan and implement an event of this magnitude.