Before the curtains even opened in Western Academy of Beijing's Founders' Theatre, the audience was transported to the airport: a chaotic scene of scrambling passengers, the sound of airplanes taking off and landing, announcements blaring through speakers.
Grade 4 and 5 students in WAB's after-school drama club performed their original musical, "Come Fly with Me!" on Wednesday evening.
It was an outstanding performance by all of the students and staff involved, but this musical's story goes much deeper than what was seen on stage.
Students took active roles in creating the production. Rather than just finding a part, memorizing the lines and performing, all 39 of them were integral in every step of the process, including story development, script-writing, set design, costumes, music, choreography, stage direction and beyond.
While the three faculty directors – Mr. Rob, Ms. Goldie and Ms. Kerina – all facilitated and spearheaded the group's production, all of them agreed that involving the students in the creative process from beginning to end was a more beneficial, rewarding experience.
"This was a challenging task for the students, and they completed it in exceptional fashion. There is an element of ownership for each of them in the musical," Mr. Rob said. "They learn how these things are created from the bottom-up. The writing process, the creative process – they are all acting in the scenes that they wrote. That motivates them in a special way."
The project offered a fun and interactive way for the students to apply their knowledge and learn new skills while removing the borders of a standard writing assignment or acting role. It was a cross-disciplinary exercise, and resulted in the emergence of personalities and uncovering of passions for these students.
Another major transformation the teachers witnessed was among the second-language speakers in the group.
"When you see second language speakers who have just left the beginner English program and they volunteer for a role – it's just amazing," Mr. Rob said. "In the beginning it is extremely hard for them. But then they get their text, the ideas in their head. And then you see that flying moment."
Read more about how WAB is breaking down the barriers of education on the Future of Learning at WAB blog.