Street Stories, 5 video vignettes, is the culmination of a 6 week journey taken by senior drama students from Bur Oak Secondary School in Markham, ON.
Last year, the Homeless Hub invited Cameron Ferguson, a teacher at Bur Oak Secondary, to develop a dramatic arts curriculum unit that focuses on homelessness issues. In the fall of 2009, Cameron decided to pilot the unit with her own students.
The students’ journey in the classroom began with each of them asking a question about homelessness that they hoped to answer by the end of the unit. Their questions became the basis for researching the unit.
The students became instantly immersed in what they found. In fact, the students continued talking about homelessness and their research even after the bell excused them; and what had begun as a three-week unit expanded into a six-week process.
Once the research component was complete, the students were charged with more traditional dramatic arts assignments that were to be based on their findings. Over the next few weeks, they created scenes depicting homelessness that were based on well-known fairy tales; they wrote journal entries in the voices of oppressed characters; they were given a newspaper article about a homeless youth arrested for shoplifting and asked to create a scene based on the thread of events that could have led to this arrest.
For the final assignment, the students were asked to create vignettes informed by their own research, with the intent of producing a theatrical piece for public consumption. Although the resulting play focuses heavily on the causes of teen homelessness, the students also looked at some of the effects on individuals. The final product imagines the experiences of five very different teenagers, who through no fault of their own become homeless due to: eviction; physical abuse; teen pregnancy; trouble in the foster care system; and homophobia. The scenes are strung together to create a provocative and honest portrait of teen homelessness.
The students of Bur Oak Secondary felt compelled to create a show that was sincere and offered no magical solutions. While there may be no happy endings in these tales, the students hope that by sharing this piece of theater, they will ignite awareness and ultimately affect change.
The full dramatic arts unit can be found here.
Read the Education Forum article recounting one teacher's experience with this unit.
“Change Your Mind”, an original song created to accompany the play, can be found here.
A Toronto Star article on the project can be found here.