Improv acting helps students respond to bullying and harassment
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Improv acting helps students respond to bullying and harassment

Improv acting helps students respond to bullying and harassment

Sadly, bullying and harassment are bound to occur at some point in every school, college and even university in the world.

It’s tough enough for educators to prevent it but for students, it’s even tougher to know how to deal with it.

Enter Creative Action, a US non-profit youth development organization that “provides hands-on fun, creative learning programs in classrooms, in after-school settings and in the community.”

In a recent workshop at the IDEA Rundberg school in Texas, actors from the organization used art and drama to help students understand how to respond to any bullying or harassment they may experience.

Teamed with two other actors, Margaret Hunsicker played the role of a harassment victim in front of a group of seventh-graders, allowing them to interject when necessary.

In the performance, Hunsicker’s character, Jessica, experiences unwanted touching and is photographed without her consent. The students watch as one actor, ‘Jack’, slaps ‘Jessica’s’ bottom and takes a selfie of the event to post on his social media accounts.

The students were then invited to make suggestions as to what a passerby witnessing this could do, and how Jessica could react to ensure Jack knows his behavior was unacceptable.

“Jack is the one who’s choosing to harass Jessica; it’s not her fault one little bit,” actor Sean Moran told pupils according to KUT. “What can she do to let Jack know that that’s not OK?”

One student reportedly suggested alerting a teacher, and so the group incorporated this into the scene.

Moran said opening up a dialogue on the role of consent in such a situation was vital.

“We’re here to teach them what consent is and when to recognize harassment as it’s happening, and what to do if you see it happening,” Hunsicker said.

The scene was designed to hit home with middle schoolers, who often have to deal with harassment and bullying of this nature. By exposing students to scenes like this through acting, Creative Action hopes it will help them to know how to react if they experience something similar.

Not only do events like this help students who are victim to harassment, but it also helps the perpetrators understand their actions. IDEA Rundberg Counselor Stacia Comer told KUT when dealing with a student who has displayed this behavior, she will remind them of a specific performance they watched asking them to compare how they behaved to the behavior in the scene they witnessed.

“I’m like – ‘Well, do you see that as similar or different to what you just saw in the scenario? And a lot of times kids will connect – ‘Oh, that was similar to what happened’ – because a lot of times there’s just a disassociation,” she explained.

Based in Texas, Creative Action uses art as well as drama to inform young people about harassment, running many after-school clubs.

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