Before the sun rose on a cool winter morning, five theatre arts students and their faculty mentor were en route to Elkin Elementary School in Elkin, NC to make their debut as teachers in the Odyssey of the Mind program. Theatre Arts Education students spent almost eight hours on this valuable project, in addition to preparation time, and they left feeling more confident about their career path than ever before.
Theatre Arts Education student teachers, under the leadership of Dr. Janet Barton Speer, Distinguished Professor of Performing Arts, included Jake Sheffer, Jarrett Koski, James Shimo, Takema Howard, and Cat Langston. As a collaborative team, these individuals worked with 10 students, representing grades 6th through 12th. These young students were preparing for their regional Odyssey of the Mind competition.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Participants are challenged to use their creativity to solve problems, ranging from building mechanical and architectural devices to creating art and performance to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.
Dr. Speer said, “Theatre Arts Education students were excited to help with Odyssey of the Mind because they had been training in ‘think outside the box’ lessons since August when they came a week early to begin their methods studies. Odyssey of the Mind became a capstone experience, as our future teachers were challenged by bright North Carolina students. The students were able to offer exciting lessons that reflected positively on their hard work this semester.”
Jarrett W. Koski reflects, “It was such a joy and honor to be a part of the Odyssey of the Mind. I really loved working with different students and being able to enhance their minds using the world of theatre.”
When recalling some of the lessons taught, Takema Howard said, “The students we worked with had great potential [with] a wide range of talent. It was just a great learning experience for everyone [involved].”
Theatre Arts Education students were able to work with the very brightest of students who attend public schools in rural North Carolina. Their lessons pertained to understanding body language in performance and how that language helps us communicate. In addition, instruction was provided on how one can learn from the body language of other people. Characterization and role playing exercises supported this incredible teaching and service-learning experience.
“Odyssey of the Mind was an extremely unique event in that it challenged me as a future educator to take what I already knew about theatre and apply it in a more universal manner. [The event] and the students were just as adventurous as I,” said Jake Sheffer.