Let´s all be mice! – Exploring life with drama at preschool

“Let´s all be mice and you can be the fox”

“You can have these ears and we will hide under the blanket.”

Suddenly the classroom is a mice home and all the children in the Frogs preschool group are mice and the art pedagogue is the fox. This is how an extempore drama play starts at preschool’s free play time.

Art pedagogue Suvi Eskola, Y.E.S Day Care Centre
Art pedagogue Suvi Eskola, Y.E.S Day Care Centre

Art Pedagogues have been working in Vantaa early childhood education for two years now since fall 2015. Few weeks back the city of Vantaa made it permanent role in the early childhood world and 15 artists will be working in the day cares all around Vantaa from fall 2016. The project is called TAIKAVA and it is a joint co-operation with city of Vantaa cultural services and early childhood education services. Project purpose is to find new ways to support the welfare of children especially the growth, development and learning through the arts. The art pedagogues are from various fields of art including circus, fine arts, drama and music.

In Finland the day care is an early childhood education service arranged by the municipality. Each child is entitled for early childhood education and parents are entitled to place their child in day care. All under school aged children in Finland have a legal right to receive either municipal or private day care, or allowance for home care or private day care. Early childhood education means planned and goal-oriented education, instruction and care that puts special emphasis on pedagogics.

Today’s drama workshop lesson we are looking at a story called “Giraffe’s can´t dance.” In the previous workshops we have worked together with animal characters and different feelings. Exploring how animals could show how they are feeling and how we humans do so. Now it is time to dive into an acted story. First we look at the book and read it together. Then we have a small discussion about it. “Let´s get in the story” tells Suvi, the art pedagogue. Children take their roles in the swing of things. There are no right or wrongs, the main purpose is to dive into the creative story with friends.

The drama work with children is a combination of raising self-awareness, exploring feelings, practising together-skills and starting to think life through drama specs. What does this all mean then? As a drama pedagogue I believe in the creative ways of exploring life together. How the objectives of the project (raising self-awareness and self-esteem, supporting challenges in learning, equal opportunities for art education, create new solutions for everyday situations) can be reached or explored through the means of drama work?

My role as an art pedagogue has been like a role of a joker – so to speak. I have been involved in all the routines of a normal day care day. I eat, go out, play, read or work shop with the children and other educators in the group. My main drama input has been my weekly one-hour drama workshops.  In there I have introduced the children into the many ways of working with drama and theatre. We have been all in a journey into the unknown and I as an art pedagogue am learning as going with the children. That has been very fulfilling for me as practitioner. How to really involve the children in their own learning and exploring, so  they can take ownership of their work.

“I can jump this high!”

“I remember what comes next.”

“This is cool.”

“Why we are doing this?”

”I am sometimes angry. Like an angry bear”

”That felt nice when you helped me”

taikava blogi 3
Art pedagogue Suvi Eskola, Y.E.S Day Care Centre

In drama work many questions rise and comments are more than welcome. Drama space has a moment to explore our ways of being together from an art perspective. The role of a teacher can change also. “We are all learning together” I say to the children. Of course I have planned my sessions before hand and they are in line with the other activities happening in preschool – planned with early childhood education  professionals. However the small difference is visible. “Now you´re back being a teacher.” One boy tells me after drama play when going out. This comment really made me think about my role as an art pedagogue. How can we support the children in creative ways? Help them become self-aware humans without unnecessary authority?

In our workshops after the drama work, warm-up games and imaginative journey, we always finish our time together with feather relaxation. This is the time to reflect what has happened and how it made us feel. The children work in pairs, the other one lying in the floor and other one touching the friend with a feather. This moment is magical. We have had fun, imaginative, crazy, even challenging activities together and now it´s time to reflect. After a little practice the children are able to help their friend to relax. The sense of belonging in touchable in the room always for few minutes after the moment passes and we are hurried back to next activity in our preschool day.

In the end I would like to share a feedback comment I got from a child when asked what they liked at our workshop.  “At first I was little bit scared to be it (play a role) But then I wasn´t. In the story I met the grasshopper, who was Ted (another child, name changed), he helped me, that part made me happy again.”

taikava blogi 1
Art pedagogue Suvi Eskola, Y.E.S Day Care Centre

Suvi Eskola
Art pedagogue
Y.E.S Day Care Centre, Vantaa, Finland