This paper tells of collaborative research in which two primary school teachers designed drama work to help their students navigate challenging journeys. From safe New Zealand classrooms, students used drama to look at the tyranny of colonisation and at resistance by conscientious objection. Drama we know has the capacity to help students imagine another’s predicament, expand critical understanding, and support development into informed democratic citizens. In this country though, drama has become distanced from teachers’ classroom practice. The two teachers in this study let their students imagine colonisation and resistance, and helped them see with new eyes. The students were challenged to question different perspectives on right and wrong and to navigate their own direction with critical thought and empathy. The teachers and the researcher worked together in the classroom to teach, reflect on, and theorise the drama work. These teachers’ examples can serve as a navigation beacon for others.
Dr Elizabeth Anderson EdD is Senior Lecturer in drama at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland. Elizabeth’s research interests are in drama education particularly, in preservice teacher education, and curriculum.
Marsha Finlay is the teacher in charge of drama at Ruawai College. Ruawai is a small town in the Northland region, and the college is a rural bicultural school with a roll of 160. Marsha’s interest in bringing the literature of New Zealand authors alive to her junior English classes came to Elizabeth’s attention when she conducted a survey of drama teachers, and they have worked together on this project. The project brought about a rewarding partnership, with productive and enjoyable visits to the north.