The Arts: Experience Through Process

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By Robert Medley

The arts emphasize process over product, which is where hands-on learning really works. My goal in theater is to get students to understand that they have a skill set that they’ll apply in many different situations, and to give them the ability to solve problems (How should we interpret this play? Who should be where on stage?). Hands-on learning empowers students and creates a situation where they are willing to experiment, even to fail sometimes.

You can fail only if you have confidence in your skills and realize that they are flexible. Hands-on learning builds the ability to pursue and do, regardless of the outcome. Experiential learning opens you up to serendipity and the possibility that things beyond your control may manifest in positive ways. I think our students walk out of here with the ability to risk for risk’s sake, the ability to say, “I may not know how to do this, but I know other things and I’m willing to try.”

It’s a real value. When students experience these successes and failures, they build confidence. No matter what they do in life, they’ll still pull from that skill set required to do hands-on, direct work.

High school students performing in Twelfth Night
Robert Medley is the Upper School theater teacher and director.