Facebook and instant messaging are making it even easier than before for school kids to create closed groups and intentionally exclude others, or worse. To help students counter this trend, an educational musical play on how to better understand and include all students is being performed for more than 3500 students in the Greater Victoria, Nanaimo and Salt Spring Island school districts in late April and early May.
The play “Inclusion Not Seclusion” is a co-production of Mountain Dream Productions (www.mountaindreamproductions.ca) and the Mary Winspear Centre (www.marywinspear.ca) in Sidney. It is performed by students ages 13-15 who integrate song, dance and dialogue to deliver their message in a lively, engaging performance. The musical play helps children in elementary and middle schools better understand why they should try to include all students – whether of different race, religion, culture or ability.
Margaret Watt, artistic director for Mountain Dream Productions, says she decided to create this musical after observing students at her school. “Seeing children interact and seeing new children arrive from other countries, I realized there’s a lot of integration that needs to go on. This applies to students with disabilities too,” she says. “When I talked to my performing arts students about this, we decided to write a play about ‘inclusion not seclusion’ as everyone should be included in our society today.”
Watt has taught musical theatre for many years. Three times a year she offers her performance arts “Triple Threat” program at the Mary Winspear Centre for children and teens ages 6 to 10 and 11 to 17.
The play “Inclusion Not Seclusion” revolves around three students who are new to a school, including one who has autism. At first the “in” group of students ignores or makes fun of them, but gradually attitudes change as they get to see each other’s strengths.
The young performers have discovered that being in the play has changed the way they think. Andrea says, “At first we thought [the nasty character] wouldn’t act like that… it’s way over the top. And then you go to school and see it happening everywhere.” When reflecting on whether the play had changed her perceptions, Mikayla says, “After being part of the play, if you see someone who is struggling or is different, you would want to go out of your way to make them feel accepted or welcome.”
The play is free of charge to the schools thanks to two provincial grants and another from the Capital Regional District. Students in the Greater Victoria area will be bused to the Mary Winspear Centre to see the play while Nanaimo and Salt Spring students will assemble in school gyms. Much appreciated community support has come from Wilson’s Transportation, Coast Capital Savings, Rotary Club of Royal Oak Centennial, Royal Oak Lions Club, the Municipality of Central Saanich and the Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria.
WHEN AND WHERE:
April 23-24 will perform for six schools in Nanaimo.
May 1-3 will perform at the Mary Winspear Centre for students from Greater Victoria schools.
May 8 will perform for four Salt Spring Island elementary schools.