One of the deepest and most sincere pleasures of teaching with Purple Carrots has been watching and helping participants make friends. An important part of our programming and approach is providing a safe space to learn about social awareness and to develop social skills such as friendship making.
Luckily, drama is a sneaky yet great teacher of such very human lessons.
How exactly do we provide friendship skill-building opportunities?
Here are some examples:
Firstly, through Guided Free Play: we give students space to interact and play on their own terms. This allows for organic topics to surface and friendships to build naturally. We then use these real life experiences as teaching tools and jumping off points for conversation.
Circle Time: individual check-ins during circle time are an opportunity for each student to share how they’re feeling that day, and/or to share something of interest to them. Even something as small as naming a feeling can be an effective way of becoming more mindful and able to connect with others. This is both an opportunity to practice communicating feelings with others as well as being able to listen and give space for others to share.
Warm Up is a time for students to focus on team work in regards to their ability to both follow and lead in communication. Our warm up games are never competitive (we don't play any 'out' games), but rather focus on how we can best support each other.
Art provides us with an opportunity to sit down together and engage in social conversations with one another without the pressure of having to follow complex instructions. This is a time to connect freely with others (or not, depending on what the student needs/desires are at that time).
I would like to share one of my favourite experiences related to friendship making during art time with you. During art in one of our adult classes, a student nervously came up to me and told me that she really wanted to make friends with another student in the class, but didn’t know how. She agreed to sit with me and brainstorm ideas on how to approach the potentially new friend, and we proceeded to co-write a list of steps that would ideally help her break down the otherwise daunting task of making a new friend into manageable steps. These students had been in the same class together for several weeks and so the following steps were created in consideration of them already having shown signs of establishing a personal connection.
This is what we came up with together:
1. Say hello
2. Tell them how you feel: that you would like to be friends and spend some time together outside of class
3. Ask them if they would like that too
4. If they say yes, suggest some fun activities you could do! Bowling, going to Tim Hortons for a tea, going for a walk in the park, watching a movie, etc.
5. Ask for their phone number and if it would be alright for you to call them to set up a time and place to hang out.
These two students remain friends to this day.
Performance: one of the core lessons that drama teaches us is learning how to be present, to play, and to stand in front of other humans and express our feelings. Learning how to do this and to listen/watch others do the same is a very important life skill that we work on from many different angles at Purple Carrots. The need to rely on each other in order to tell a story is also a significant contributor to such skills.
These are just some of the many examples of friendship building opportunities I’ve witnessed and had the pleasure of being a part of thanks to this beautiful community.
I sincerely feel that our students are some of the most thoughtful, creative and loving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and it brings me great joy to help them realize how capable of making and keeping friends they truly are! What could be better than expanding someone's concept of their own self worth and personal power?
By Mjaa Danielson.