First of all, let me proclaim how much I adore the word dearth.Â In my head, it should mean “abundance” but in actuality, it means scarcity.Â So, when I have the chance to use it, it seems to possess a bizarre personal double meaning that makes it all the powerful.Â For me, at least.Â Plus it’s fun to say.
Second, let’s talk about this Research Dearth.
One of the challenging parts of consulting about theatre with young children is not the consulting itself, but the dearth of substantial research about the topic.Â We are expected, after all, to support our assumptions not just with our practices and working knowledge, but with the theory and statistics.Â Expect, of course, they don’t really exist in this field.
Sure, there’s research about the use of theatre with adults, teens, and youths.Â There’s even research about whether being involved in theatre (or any art, for that matter) makes them smarter or better people.Â There’s research about young children and their developmental process and the joy they receive from the arts, the increased math potential from listening to music (thank you Little Einstein for taking that concept overboard and poisoning us with poor imitations of the real thing).Â What doesn’t exist is research specifically correlating the developmental process of young children and their participation in process-oriented theatre arts.Â Okay, that’s a little white lie, there’s some out there, but it’s really really hard to find and exists as one-liners in dense multi-chapter studies.
I’ve got this dearth particularly in mind today as I work my way through Theatre, Education, and the Making of Meanings by Anthony Jackson.Â This text is not about young children, nor is it even about process-oriented theatre.Â But it does offer some truly interesting perspective about the development of educational theatre over history, the progress of its theories, and the ongoing dichotomy between the “art” of educational theatre arts and the “education” of educational theatre arts.
I’ll keep you posted as I keep on (it’s rather dry so who knows how long it’ll take me!) but here’s my favorite quote so far.Â It happens to be from Brecht, not the author of this text:
the contrast between learning and amusing oneself is not laid down by divine rule;â€¦theatre remains theatre, even when it is instructive theatre, and in so far as it is good theatre it will amuse.
I think we educators of young children can concur…the best learning does indeed take place when learning is a joy.