Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Teenagers need to play too.

The Hands-On Company believe that play is for all ages.We use a combination of role play, hot seating, monologue creation and improvisation to bring 'pshee' to life in secondary education and have found time and again how useful these techniques are to lower inhibitions and allow our groups to learn while having fun. We can concentrate on one subject, or highlight the importance of informed choice-making across the pshee curriculum. Within the teams that work with this age group, we employ two young presenters who are fully trained in social education. They are often young actors, or gap-year presenters looking for a career in teaching, social work or acting. Their confidence and light-hearted approach to the workshop content usually rubs off on the group within the first few minutes, making the teacher facilitator's task of imparting relevant information so much easier. The atmosphere is non judgmental and the expectation is respect for all while having fun.

Teenagers are usually going through the process of moving most of their play from a physical urge to a more cerebral movement and while the change is ongoing, embarrassment, fear of negative peer response and a desire to be grown-up can limit involvement in a more hands-on approach, especially with drama and puppetry. We have found that the more hairy, large and comical looking our puppets are, the more teenagers can relate to them. When we made specific teenager puppets, they were not as  lovable as our more outlandish creations. It seems that by moving the puppet part away from real characters in realistic scenarios, the groups feel they can have a go in a playful manner. On the flip side to this, we have found that if we show the groups, more realistic drama with our role play presenters expressing situations in real life scenarios and acting with sincerity, the young people in the groups, are happy to become involved with giving advice and considering consequences to actions. Sometimes they want to observe us, sometimes to observe a handful of their peers working with us, they may want to answer a question or ask one themselves. A combination of silly puppets, activities involving beer googles, plastic willies and condoms, mixed with hard hitting drama and information group activities works a treat to involve each member of a group. We are allowed to play in a way that suits the individual's mood on that day, while considering informed choice making at the same time. A win-win for all.