Students experience Shakespeare

By Sarah Griego Guz May 2, 2018 Students experience power of Shakespeare Bard lives on at local school.


The powerful words of Shakespeare echo through the halls of Main Street Scholars Day School as students explore their passions while learning prose. The Main Street Scholars Day School program offers full-time academic instruction for students who have chosen to transition out of a traditional school setting.


Among the students taking advantage of the California Common Core standards-based, interdisciplinary model and project-based curriculum are athletes and dancers who are looking to focus on their sports while continuing to pursue their education. The core work is organized into intensive modules called “Integrated Journeys” that are designed to weave core subjects with real-world applications. Educators sometimes call the notion project-based learning.


Each four-week “journey” revolves around a theme. Every theme is related on a higher level throughout the year. The study of Shakespeare is a big part of those Integrated Journeys. “We start with a particular play,” said Main Street Scholars theater arts teacher Robert Pickett. “Everything emanates from that. The curriculum that we do, the math is related somehow to whatever play we are doing …


“We just finished up with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’” he continued. “We are in the middle of ‘Macbeth’ right now and we are going to end the school year with ‘Julius Caesar.’ I feel like ‘Macbeth’ has so many different realms that it encompasses.”


When starting a new module, Pickett, who is also the founder of the Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Co., likes to get the ball rolling by reading round robin.In the case of “Macbeth,” he’s picked a passage that he thinks will resonate with his students.


“Right now we’ve chosen this scene where MacBeth and Lord Banquo encounter the witches for the very first time. That’s the one that we focus on,” he stated. “Everything emanates from that. We understand about Banquo’s character. We understand about Macbeth’s character. We understand about destiny.


“We then go through the play, scene by scene,” he continued. “We focus a lot on vocabulary because that, too, is, for the most part, what kids don’t understand about ‘Macbeth.’


“... We start with vocabulary and we read the scene and we make sure we know what the words mean,” he continued. “Because in a lot of cases, they don’t mean the same thing as what they mean today.”


Pickett points to the word “weird” as an example. “There’s no place in the play where they call the witches, ‘witches,’” said Pickett. “They call them the ‘weird sisters.’ ‘Weird’ in those days meant someone who was homeless, lived in ditches and other places, and didn’t have a place they called home.”


In addition to teaching the basics, Pickett also seeks to tap into the intrinsic interests of each student. For those who tend toward behind-the-scenes jobs, like sound or film editing, Pickett has them covered.


“We break the scenes down and then we film them with a camera,” he stated. “We have a boom and we have special effects. There’s all this stuff that we keep adding to. Every time we do it, the quality gets a little bit better, the kids get a little more focused.”


Pickett acknowledges that some Main Street Scholars students are grappling with difficult real-life issues. For these kids, Pickett thinks that there has been healing through both the program as a whole and through Shakespeare.


“I have seen a huge arc in some of these kids,” he said. “When I first started out at the beginning of the year, some of these kids, their level of participation and their level of excitement, their level of interest was minimal to below. There are issues that are not necessarily issues that are learning issues or disabilities, but there are emotional scars that will hinder the kids from having an optimum learning experience.


“We’ve gone through problem solving. We’ve gone through project management, how we’ve set everything up,” he continued. “There are all these elements that have really created a bond. … They look forward to it. They’ve learned to trust me, they’ve learned to trust each other, and they are becoming more confident in themselves because of it.” A summer camp called Shakespeare for Kids is scheduled from 9 to 3 p.m. on June 19 through June 29 at Main Street Scholars. Students will perform scenes from an adapted play by Shakespeare.


The class will learn how to approach and perform Shakespeare and acting for the camera. Student actors will perform in front of a camera and will receive an edited version on DVD.


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