CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004
Drama is a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce life lessons. The Field Mouse Collection consists of two plays, The Field and Mouse, which present issues elementary age children think about while offering them positive guidance.
The Field deals with the issue of prejudice in an interesting way. Lane is a blind girl who has moved to a new area. She befriends a boy, Arun, in a field. Lane's brother Ben shuns Arun because he is East Indian. He has heard their father make derogatory remarks about people of Indian heritage. When they begin school, Lane and Ben are surprised to see that Arun has lots of friends, but they are having trouble being accepted. They meet Arun again in the field and hash out their wrong-headed ideas with him. Arun's value as a human being is displayed when Ben and Lane's seeing-eye dog fall into an old well. Knowing that it might collapse and kill them, Arun devises a clever rescue just before the well caves in. The brother and sister do the right thing and take their friend home to meet their dad.
The Field would be an excellent play for students in any elementary grade. It could be used as an extension of a unit about prejudice, stereotypes, or immigration. Students in grades 4-6 could easily mount this play and present it to younger children. An entire class could become involved in the discussion of how the actors should portray the characters and react to the issues being raised. With skillful guidance, it has the possibility of taking discussion about prejudice into the home and hopefully sorting out incorrect notions that may exist there. This play could have both an immediate and a long-term affect on the way that children think and act.
Mouse is a play about taking risks. While the setting and characters (mice) are appealing to younger children, the issue raised is something students in upper elementary grades are getting ready to consider. The mice roles inject humour and will teach children the concept of metaphor.
The mice in this play are in a lab. The adults follow the same routine every day, running on a wheel, getting lost in a maze, eating and sleeping. The schedule is always the same, and all the mice accept it. Josh is a young mouse who is supposed to go to school to learn to shred paper. Every day is the same, evidently without purpose or accomplishment. He questions the reasons for what they are doing, but everyone else is afraid to consider anything but their routine. It takes great courage to push himself outside the boundaries of this world. He realizes that change is frightening but can be positive. He decides to embrace it.
Mouse would be an effective play to discuss issues of independence and decision-making. The framework of the lab and the use of repetition add fun and humour for actors and audience alike.
The staging, costuming and makeup for these plays are simple and inexpensive, giving a classroom teacher time to concentrate on the content of the plays rather than the technical demands. Drama is an enriching activity that brings out the ham in some children, provides others who are not gifted in sports or academics the opportunity to shine, and prompts deep thought. Every child should have the opportunity to have his or her life altered in a positive way through drama.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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