DRAMA RAINBOW:CREATIVE DISCOVERY FOR KIDS
No rote learning, just developing potential in each child, reports.
For Wang Wei, founder of children’s training institute Drama Rainbow, drama is far more than entertainment. It is a form of education that inspires the imagination and creativity in youngsters, she told China Daily in a recent interview.
The institute offers once-a-week sessions in a five-year-long program that “seeks to cultivate in its students not only independent thinking, but also a disciplined sensibility and confidence in both the inside and outside world”.
At a conventional training center, scores of students crowd a classroom to follow a teacher in one specific subject, hoping to get an edge from an extracurricular class in China’s score- oriented educational system.
Even a purely interest-fostered program aims to give pupils an advantage in a given field such as public speaking or writing.
But there is no textbook or competitive elbowing for high scores at Drama Rainbow. Each of its courses designed for children ranging from aged 3 to 8 is a play. The entire class of around 10 students participates with the aid of two teachers.
Instead of being given scripts to recite, the children create the play themselves after teachers provide a scenario.
“There is no need to lead them into the play. It’s their nature,” Wang said. “The 3 to 6 years old live in their own fantasy world. You can always find them playing multiple roles even alone. Roleplaying is just their way of learning and entertainment.”
Professional guidance from teachers adds clout. It helps children improve their imagination, expression, emotion, focus and intelligence, enabling development of interpersonal skills and creative thinking, she noted.
Wang cited a play about a small town as an example. “It gives children the opportunity to combine their knowledge in a diverse range of fields from urban planning and architecture to mathematics for a solution and helps develop a comprehensive quality.”
Even an adult’s mind may go blank in an unfamiliar environment. The classroom plays provide more exercise to prepare children for real life.
Plays based on centuries- old tales that reflect the humanities help develop emotional qualities.
Brain development in childhood is crucial to future competitiveness, she said. “We try to guide our students to enhance constructive imagination and avert destructive ones.”
The young CEO, who earned a master’s degree in management from Coventry University in Britain after an MBA at Beijing Jiaotong University, was well adjusted to China’s exam-driven educational system.
It requires “a balanced performance in various subjects for a higher score”, she notes.
Yet the beneficiary of that education began to reflect on the system when she noticed the education of her friend’s five-year-old son during her stay in Britain.
Billing herself as “good at observing and thinking”, Wang said she was amazed by Britain’s approach to childhood education so different from that in China.
She began learning about the theory of drama in education and developed a keen interest in vanguard education.
After she had her own child in 2007, she realized that China’s existing educational system could not tap her daughter’s maximum potential.
The current system, like mass production, lacks of personalized adjustments. “She may be made mediocre in every aspect, but not brilliant where she does best.”
Wang said she found that her daughter is not a lone case. Many of her friends share the concern.
She noted prominent performance of Chinese-born students in the US and European schools. “The growth of same seeds is different due to different soils.”
As a result, she imported the concept of drama in education and founded Drama Rainbow in 2009.
Finding each talent
At standard schools, children are rated according to scores. Failure to secure a satisfactory ranking leaves them and their parents worried.
The rules of the educational jungle do not apply to Drama Rainbow. The purpose of education is not to judge whether students are good or bad, but to encourage their growth, Wang said. “Every child is talented in some ways. The key is to locate where their advantages are and find the appropriate learning channels.”
She cited one student, aged 3, who has a strong sense of direction and can lead his grandpa to the subway and know where to go.
Another example is an 8-yearold boy who has already published a handbook of pencil drawings.
“He starts drawing from details, rather than from a framework at first,” Wang said. “Apparently he has already pictured in his mind what he plans to draw before touching a pencil.”
But such a quiet talent may get frustrated if he signs up for a speech program. The wrong decision could damage his development, she said.
Wang believes that every student is unique and has huge potential. As the school name indicates, what Drama school is working on is using an artistic way to help children and their parents find the best way from various colorful options.
“The first step is observation,” she said. At Drama Rainbow, teachers try to make a judgment on the direction of a student’s growth after reviewing class records and frequent talks with their parents.
Likened to jade carving, which requires sculptor to take time to decide what the stone at hand can be shaped into, a full-fledged educator also needs observation to weigh the most suitable “learning channel” for children.
The specially designed dramas provide the students opportunities for self-discovery and development, she said.
“When children have come to know what their edge is, it helps to build confidence,” she said. “This, in turn, will bring about interest in other subjects including those they are not that expert at — they need a fulcrum.”
While the pioneer model is still gearing up, more than 300 students have benefited from it to date.
To popularize ideas on drama in education, the school also organized a commercial performance of children’s plays by an adult cast.
The Box Room was staged 16 times at the National Theater of China in Beijing in June, offering the audience a new perspective on self-discovery and re-examining family relations. Next year, a new “theater in education” will continue the effort.
Wang said her school is at the forefront in the world in the approach, with foreign experts joining the program.
Branding Director Kang Shaoyang wrote on its official website that “as parents we only get one chance to raise our children”.
“The best gift we can ever give our child is confidence.”
Teacher Supervisor Chris Cooper said that “drama is the mirror of our society — let ‘s make this mirror as clean as possible, enabling the future generation to see themselves much clearer and help them make a better choice for a better future.”
“Learning is not a subject specially for 3 years old or 6 years old. It lasts through the entire life,” Wang said. Too much frustration in childhood will stymie their interest in learning, and maintaining curiosity is the best teacher to motivate their sustained exploration of the world around them, Wang noted
“Some learning is needed, some is vanity and some is waste of time,” she said. “Our children grow so fast. We don’t want to waste