by Karen LaShelle, Executive and Artistic Director
We pride ourselves at Theatre Action Project in offering young people experiences through which they get to be truly creative and play an integral role in their own learning. We believe in a pedagogy of “co-learning,” which simply means that we do not see the role of the teacher as the all-knowing deliverer of knowledge, but as a guide and facilitator who uses questions and structured hands-on experiences to allow students to learn actively. This also means we believe in a type of reciprocity–that both youth and teachers learn from one another. Learning is a process and we learn best when it is dynamic.
One way this method of teaching becomes tangible and visible is in the costumes made by our youth in our summer camp. Now, upon first glance, some parents might think “what on earth is my child wearing!?” when they arrive at a final camp sharing. And, yes, sometimes the outfits are not distinguishable. Is that a fedora hat or a bunny on my child’s head? However, what is so great about the costumes made in our camps is that every student makes their own and uses their own construction methods. Making their own costumes allows youth to think critically and creatively. They have to make decisions about techniques for attaching and cutting fabric, choices about color, fabric and symbolism as it relates to a character, figure out the relationship between the size of fabric and their own size and on and on. And in the end, the costumes are truly their own creation and a reflection of the character they have developed.
Many parents have thanked me that we don’t do it for the kids but demonstrate and then allow them to do the creating and learning.