A transformative educational experience for middle school students.
“Not your average school play”, “Something every student should be part of”, “A life-changing experience”
Courageous Voices is a transformative learning experience that honours people who have fought for social justice and have made a difference in the world. It is about telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. By sharing these stories their wisdom and teachings are passed along to inspire the current generation.
Education today is calling for transformative learning that inspires as it develops empathy. Courageous Voices is fundamentally about stepping into another person’s shoes, attempting to understand their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to change the world.
For students it is a perfect blend of education, the arts, social and emotional growth, anti-bullying practices, focus, teamwork and fun. The creation of the production dovetails perfectly with curriculum and culminates in a theatrical presentation that amazes and touches teachers, other students, parents and administrators alike.
Middle school is a critical time in a student’s life – a time when they are idealistic, often keenly aware of injustice in both their world and the world around them and ready for an opportunity to act passionately. It is also a time when bullying can arise, anxiety can surface and knowledge of the problems of the world grows. Courageous Voices shows how hero/ines around the world have confronted these problems and fought passionately to develop compassionate and creative solutions.
Students come away from this experience confident independent learners with historical knowledge spanning eras and cultures, essay writing and research skills, artistic and musical growth, confidence and poise when presenting publicly and, perhaps most importantly empathy and understanding for each other and all people.
The project begins with a study of fantasy and the hero quest based on Joseph Campbell’s seminal book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Students choose a real-life hero/ine and work to prove that that person has completed the hero’s journey through a formal persuasive essay that is shared with teachers and peers. They then develop a collection of important and memorable quotes from their “Courageous Voice”. The final performance is based entirely on the actual words of the people the students have chosen. The possibilities are endless, fascinating, challenging and engaging!
The result shatters the idea that middle school students are self-centered and immature. The students rise above their age and stage in a spectacular fashion weaving together dialogue and music into a powerful, thought-provoking and moving performance featuring some of the greatest words ever written, spoken or sung.
“The students put on the play in a stripped-down, purist form. No costumes, just black clothing. No scenery, just the black-and-white portraits each student had crafted of their chosen hero. The 13-yearold students are so passionate they become their heroes, and soon I don’t see the little blond girl, hair tied into a tight ponytail. I see Gandhi.”
–Catherine Porter, The Toronto Star
It was an absolute pleasure to witness such a powerful presentation, about so many incredible heroes, from extremely committed and passionate students. It was indeed magical!”
-Mary Jane McNamara, TDSB Superintendent of Education
“Courageous Voices taught me empathy, understanding, respect, gratitude and most of all the importance of using our voices – this is something you do not get from textbooks and lessons.”
-Student Participant 2018
“The show was over-the-top fantastic. My parents visiting from out West could not believe that this is what is being taught in Ontario! They said that the world would be a much better place if all young people were taught to have a courageous voice – I agree!
“It’s about the inclusion of every single student, from shrinking violet to superstar extrovert and I would challenge anyone by the end to be able to pick out which were which. And most importantly, it’s about the long-lasting effects of having participated in such a project; all of us have been touched in a profound way by the words spoken and the lives lived.”
-Jane Barbeau, TDSB Retired