Theatre company brings climate science to the stage
An Alberta-based theatre company is empowering youth to make conscious environmental decisions by combining science and art.
“Our aim is to explore pertinent social and environmental topics through the arts, leaving our participants and audience feeling connected, inspired and empowered with science and the natural world,” said Christina Chase-Warrier, director of programming at Evergreen Theatre.
Established in 1991, Evergreen Theatre is an educational, science-focused touring company that promotes a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) approach to learning.
The company engages with audiences by putting a scientific spin on stories and topics from popular culture, building on environmental concepts like energy-efficient living, sustainable housing and renewable resources.
According to Chase-Warrier, an arts-integrated approach to learning science can engage a greater number of students in the subject matter, because it facilitates a safe space for collaboration, self-esteem, creativity and risk-taking.
“It is precisely these types of skills that are critical for future scientific and environmentally-minded innovation and economic diversification,” said Chase-Warrier.
Evergreen Theatre’s curriculum-based content is primarily presented through touring shows and artist-in-residency programs.
To reach audiences across the province, the company travels to elementary schools to perform a 50-minute show that includes music, writing, sets, props and costumes.
Unlike traditional theatre shows, students have opportunities to engage with the actors and perform in the show, which can help the audience connect with the concepts presented, said Chase-Warrier.
The topics presented during the performance are also reinforced after the show during a question period led by Evergreen educators.
Recently, Evergreen launched an “Eco-Tales” series, shows that put an environmental spin on traditional fairy-tales.
The first production in the series is The Three Little Pigs and B.B. Wolfe, an adaptation where B.B. Wolfe is a climate scientist who tries to teach the little pigs about energy efficient building practices to withstand the ‘huffing and puffing’ of a changing climate.
“These musical theatre shows are aimed at increasing awareness and action around issues such as climate change, conservation and energy efficiency, while promoting simple actions students can take to care for our earth,” said Chase-Warrier.
For a more hands-on approach, schools can sign up for Evergreen Theatre’s artist-in-residency program. In this case, students have one week to learn how to build their own show – through a series of playwriting and performance workshops – on topics related to what they are studying in school.
Some of those topics include how animals in urban communities are affected by pollution, extreme weather caused by climate change, and the impact of habitat loss on ecosystems.
Learning through theatre
Chase-Warrier said by using visual, auditory and movement-based learning methods throughout their performances, not only are their shows more entertaining, but students are better able to absorb the environmental and scientific concepts woven into the storyline.
For example, students can remember the eco-inspired song lyrics in the shows, because they are adapted to tunes by artists – like Taylor Swift – who are popular with the younger audiences. In the Three Little Pigs, the audience can engage and learn with the pigs as they work to improve their environmental practices and build a sustainable home.
“Approaching energy and climate literacy through the vehicle of music and drama facilitates authentic student awareness and learning around efficiency concepts,” said Chase-Warrier. “This increases the probability of students making tangible attitudinal shifts and behavioural changes in their own daily lives to reduce their carbon footprint.”
And while Evergreen Theatre often addresses global environmental issues, Chase-Warrier said through early exposure to these issues, students can learn to make earth-friendly lifestyle choices and affect positive change in their communities.
“We are optimistic that early exposure to environmental issues in a fun, creative and non-threatening manner will plant a positive and pro-active seed in students’ minds that will further blossom as they mature,” said Chase-Warrier.