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Edge-u-cation

You can lead a kid to a textbook but you sure can’t make him learn! Therein lies the quest for me (and you) as a teacher…in this age of instant, glitzy but not always accurate info, how do we keep them ‘down on the farm,’ so to speak, or in plain English, interested in what we have to teach?

I decided not to re-invent the wheel but to use the same approach as the edgy TV shows my middle schoolers were discussing on Facebook and at their lockers every day. The updated kid-speak, the titillating visuals that mesmerized these youngsters in front of a monitor or TV screen so many hours a night could be modified into something positive and useful, I realized and thus “Edge-U-Cation was born.

Deb Gerace Caroling

Deb Gerace Caroling on a Train

Of course, I already have the inside track on this thinking outside the box mindset because I can often be found in a myriad of strange venues as a performer/educator, myself. In my never-ending quest to compete with the prancing pixels, I’ve stolen shamelessly from my own gigging life, knowing that it’s all really just about hooking your audience members and holding their attention long enough to engage them.

Deb Gerace sings with students at the Ren Fest

Deb Gerace and Students at Ren Fest

As you can see from the photos, I don’t just hook them, I join them in the fantasies.

Edge-U-Cation is my creative method of carving interesting plays and skits from dry, wooden and sometimes incorrect or missing facts about historical events or the lives of the people who participated in them. Knowing that I had to compete with TV and the web, I dramatized the historical events and characters I wanted to teach by brutally pressure-washing the saccharine from them, greatly condensing and accelerating them into a cleverly-scripted data-slam.

I wrote skits about the life of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, allowing these greats to use the vernacular, yet still quoting directly to keep them authentic and my students began to realize that hey, maybe Beethoven had a good reason for being grouchy all the time. After all, his dysfunctional family dynamic and his own early deafness makes him a more user-friendly character than his stuffy podium persona we all know from those mind-numbing music appreciation classes. This slice of life approach to an otherwise remote and forbidding personality made all the difference in my classroom.

This approach was so popular that my colleagues began asking me to “spin” some other subjects into kid-friendly skits, thus birthing “The Truth About the Trail of Tears,” “Columbus; The Other Side of the Ocean and The Story!”, and for my students at my former religious school, “The Passion According to Kids.

Deb Gerace at the entrance to Glacier National Park

Deb as Artist in Residence at Glacier National Park

My ability to write text and/or music to tailor educational facts to excite learning in kids from 3rd grade through middle school resulted in my being selected as the Artist In Residence at Glacier National Park last summer. I wrote songs and skits to teach visitors, especially kids, about the nature of the park. (See my glaciergirl2008 blog on this page for details.)

Songs about nature are included in a songbook called “Tunes that Teach – Science 101” that runs the gamut from constellations to the 3 basic rock groups, all using familiar tunes to help kids remember the facts.

Although I am making these products available right now, more info will be added to this blog as time allows. The skits run anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and can be performed in a classroom setting, just for reading out loud or can be presented as a regular play. The skits about the 3 composers were designed for my students to read aloud in a circle. Everyone took a part and the narrator read the action, rather than the kids acting out the action, due to classroom restraints. In another class, I had only 8 kids, so we doubled up on parts and that eventually inspired “Trail,” which has each actor carrying a tote containing the props for more than one role. A lot of the challenge of doing “Trail,” is switching roles by adding a feather, a hat or a weapon and trying to remember which character is still living!

I made all the skits and plays as flexible as possible, knowing that other teachers and home-schoolers face at least as many obstacles as I did when I was an “on the cart” traveling music specialist, facing classes from 8 to 23 kids with very little equipment, etc. In fact, several of the skits involve the kids in creating the necessary props. I have discovered over the years that the more personal energy we invested, the more we gained from the project.

Even those skits dealing with tragedy, as does “Trail,” contain humor, whether ironic or madcap, which of course, makes it fun and we all remember the fun stuff, don’t we? The Edge, the sometimes cutting or ironic humor that you will find in all of the products in Edge-U-Cation is what makes them cut through the banality of some of today’s educational offerings. Email for details on specific skits and projects: See Craig’s List for contact info (Services), or leave your email on COMMENTS at the end of this post.

Coming Soon to T3……..Customization, Ltd. You tell me what factoids or events you want to teach and I’ll tailor it to your needs!

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