Interdisciplinary learning with the Lyceum theatre

Christie O’Carroll (Lyceum, Edinburgh) talks about Project Scrooge at WHEC.

Tell us about the project

The Lyceum and Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) started working together around 9 months before the Project took place.  We did this to ensure that both parties were very clear as to what was expected, and to give the school the time to work out any logistical issues.  Closer to the time I then went to the school to sit in on their steering group meetings, so I was able to be part of their thought process and be able to get to know the staff better.

Project Scrooge High School Challenge was a three day event where the WHEC suspended their timetable for the 3rd years and have the entire year group work on creating a response to the Lyceum’s production of A Christmas Carol.  Every pupil received a drama workshop which I facilitated on the first day, and then they went into groups, which were led by WHEC teachers to create an event at the end of the third day.  This included a Christmas market, an interactive display about money, a dance piece, looking at how language had evolved from the past and how it might change in the future and huge puppets of Marley and Scrooge which were displayed above the Christmas Market.  All the produce in the market were made by the pupils over the 3 days too.

How did you link with the curriculum?

This project was all about interdisciplinary learning, so they weren’t doing their set subjects, what they worked on used multiple subject areas, and the school responded really well to this.  For example a Drama and Science teacher worked together for one part, Guidance and PE helped students create dance, ICT and the school Librarian worked together on something else.  We all had the criteria for A Curriculum for Excellence very much at the forefront when planning this project.

The team from the Lyceum were there to provide artistic support. I facilitated drama workshops on A Christmas Carol on the first day, then I helped with the dancers on their choreography and performance skills. We had a technician who used lighting to make the displays look beautiful, and who lit the dancers, and a producer who oversaw the smooth running of the event as there was a promenade element to it.

What made it a success?

The whole Project worked well because the staff at WHEC have an excellent relationship with each other and really understand the needs of their young people.  It was very clear from the start what everyone’s role was, and we were all united in aiming to produce the highest quality of work in a very short period of time.

As a result of the Project, the attendance for that year group went up. The year group we worked with was traditionally the least engaged in the school. We had 100% attendance for the three days of Project Scrooge and high attendance was something that continued long after the Project finished.

Any top tips?

Having worked on several versions of these types of projects my suggestion would be that early on, be very clear about who is doing what. For the staff who are leading this project to have a very clear vision about what they want to achieve, and encourage them to be ambitious. The young people who we worked with surprised us and themselves with what they were able to do, when given the space and time to be creative. Personally I also don’t like to be too prescriptive because often the young people that I work with have much better ideas than anything I have, and it is empowering for them to acknowledge that and go with it!

View more case studies available as part of this ArtWorks Scotland artists and teachers resource.

Planning for Needs and Dynamics and Reading the Room

Christie gives an overview of the things artists need to consider when going into a school, and talks about how to develop the skill of ‘reading a room’.