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Performing arts pieces mean showtime for social-emotional learning

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By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

 

Oscar Wilde famously wondered if art imitates life or if it’s really the other way round. Actors and musicians at the International School of Beijing (ISB) have faced the same blurred line between the two, after staging a play about the experience of staging a play.

As they prepared for performances of The Audition, balancing their regular academics against the hard work and fun behind the scenes and on stage, the Middle School (MS) cast and crew were given lessons on social-emotional health – how to be healthy in body and mind alongside striving for achievement in the play and in classrooms.

ISB’s Social and Emotional Curriculum was officially launched for the current 2021-2022 academic year. According to the school’s new Social and Emotional Learning Philosophy Statement, “Through social and emotional learning (SEL), ISB students will develop greater understanding of themselves, enhance their ability to care for themselves by developing resilience and making healthy choices, demonstrate empathy towards others, build healthy relationships, and act with purpose, finding their place in our global community.” 

SEL targets the development of…

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social and Cultural Competency
  • Nurturing Relationships
  • and Purposeful Action.

At ISB, the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools each put on a theatrical production per year. It’s an intense few months for those involved, testing students’ time management, interpersonal skills, and composure as well as their performance and production abilities.  

The Audition was the MS choice for 2021-2022. The ISB community enjoyed three performances at the end of last week. Written by Don Zolidis and directed by MS drama teacher Hannah Northcott, The Audition is a fast-moving play sprinkled with dance numbers that gives a hilarious and heartbreaking look at the madness of auditioning and the young actors who brave the process. 

Two students performing

“Connecting to SEL was my goal for this play,” explained Ms. Northcott. “We’ve intentionally been connecting to SEL throughout the pre-production, production, and post-production process.”

Ms. Northcott had a whiteboard in her classroom that broke down the scenes and connected them to SEL themes. One of the MS counselors came to a rehearsal to give the students SEL strategies. A cast workshop led them to connect their scenes with SEL, and there have been post-show mentoring sessions in which teachers have unpacked the play for audiences.

We’re All in the Same Boat

Another upcoming performing arts piece at ISB also has a major focus on SEL. On Wednesday, December 8, over 200 musicians from the Middle and High Schools will come together to perform in the seaworthy extravaganza We’re All in the Same Boat. The MS and HS band and choirs have prepared a spectacular hour of ocean, sea, and river songs from around the world.

As the name suggests, this show is concerned with togetherness, solidarity, and resilience. It’s particularly timely, given the choppy waters endured by everyone these past two years.

Middle School/High School music teacher Stephanie Gravelle said of the subject matter, “Students see that no matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we are all in the same boat. We are all at ISB, we are all in China, we’ve all gone through online learning, and we all have Covid-19 stories. We can choose to sink, row, bail, sail, or swim, but we need to do it together.”

“Any ensemble class like choir or band involves a massive amount of SEL work,” Ms. Gravelle said. “Students must be aware of self and the part they play in the room, but also that they are one of many creating beauty from a team effort. We stress in our music classes that we are of service to the community. Music can highlight or amplify concepts or feelings in a way nothing else can. Music can be a balm for hurt or pain.”

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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