Placements are a key part of many Southern Cross degrees; they’re not only a chance to see what a job could look like after uni, but also to apply theory to real-world scenarios. As one student recently discovered, they can also be a lot of fun.
Southern Cross Education student Alice Tate worked with the renowned Northern Rivers theatre company NORPA, on a production for schools titled, ‘The Underlibrary of Unofficial Histories.’ Alice brought a particular focus to the project, thanks to her research on creativity in the classroom and how theatre can engage students with learning history.
The production partnered with the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools Office, in a showcase that was part-immersive theatre, part-game, and part-interactive research. Students and teachers from five Catholic primary schools across the region were treated to a theatrical Stage Two History syllabus spin, solving several mind-bending puzzles with main character ‘Zelda,’ on a hunt to find her brother and restart history.
Co-Creator, Director and Dramaturg of the production, Valley Lipcer, said Alice’s work, ‘Historical Narrative through Immersive Theatre: The Benefits of Creative Pedagogies Used to Cultivate Authentic History Teaching’, was a significant contribution to the project.
“Alice’s research gave the project context in relation to the emerging fields of theatre in education and immersive theatre for young audiences,” said Valley.
A written piece from Alice was included in the comprehensive teachers notes that were sent to schools with the show and reiterated the connection between creativity and learning.
“I think it’s been a really successful project and a really great test of form and how we can move theatre out of the black box and into the real world, and reframe the child’s world as a playful creative space where they are the main players,” said Valley.
While the NORPA production and its immersive student experience incorporated high-quality production elements, Alice says creative learning can occur at all levels.
“Whether it’s drama, art, movement, or just trying to reflect on something, that’s all still a creative process. Everything that we do, even writing, it’s still a creative process,” she said.
“In my experience of practical teaching, when you try and immerse the students in the content and encourage that creativity, that’s when they really get it and connect with it. Even if it’s maths, simply giving the kids permission to be creative, that’s when I’ve found that they learn best.”
Alice plans to graduate next year from Southern Cross University, and her student experiences have helped clarify her career goals to teach History and Drama.
“At the beginning of my degree I was aiming to teach Food Technology and Textiles, but now throughout my teaching experiences I’ve really found a passion for drama and history,” she said.
With a childhood background in drama and theatrics, teaching artistically for Alice feels somewhat natural. She offers advice to those who might feel out of their comfort zone teaching creativity.
“Watch them in the playground and watch how they interact. Get to know them on a personal level, their likes and dislikes, and how they learn. Then I think it’ll come naturally to you,” she said.
Five Northern Rivers primary schools were lucky to experience the immersive history project in 2021, and NORPA hopes to reach additional schools later this year, COVID-19 permitting.
[Music] I have had the opportunity to partner and learn alongside NORPA