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February 13, 2015

Improv and Engineering Are The Same?

by Dr. Eliezer Jones
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Josh and Ryan warming up with the “Bang” improv exercise.

This week our ComedySportz High School League team had its third workshop from our ComedySportz coach. The team meets daily as part of the Improvisational Arts and Speech class, but every other month they get coached by Tom Clark of ComedySportzLA. He is great and has taught our students amazing improv skills. This week the workshop was focused on scene work which took our team to a more advanced level and closer to our goal of being performance ready. However, while I was blown away by the quality of our students at the workshop, I was told something in relation to our improv elective that was very powerful.

The other day I was discussing next year with Mr. Joseph, our amazing science teacher and Sci-Tech facilitator, as well as the Sci-Tech mentor, Adrian. We were discussing the schedule and possible line up of electives. We also discussed the question of how much Sci-Tech, a program we value and the students love, was impacted this year because of the other new elective choices students have at the same time. Improv was specifically mentioned as it attracted many students. I brought up the importance of choice and having enough electives to meet the needs of our diverse student body. Then, unexpectedly, Adrian said he agreed since in the end Sci-Tech and improv were the same.

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3D printed housings, arduinos, battery packs and wheels make up the tool box of our CIJE-Tech students.

Now if you are unfamiliar with CIJE-Tech, it is our Science and Engineering elective focused on computer programming, robotics, 3D design and more. What does that have to do with Comedy Improv? Improv is a theatre art where students perform acting scenes on the spot based on audience suggestions. The two seem to almost polar opposites. However, Adrian so perfectly pointed out that while the activities are different the goals are the same. In both classes the goal is to help build within the students the skills to think on their feet, problem solve, creatively express themselves, collaborate with their peers and be able to confidently present and communicate their ideas. One set of students do it with microcontrollers, computers and led lights while the others do it with suggestions from the audience, improv game formats and a set of improv rules.

We have a growing list of electives and clubs for our students to take advantage of. The purpose is to ensure that we can create an environment where each and every one of our students can figure out what they are passionate about, get to know their strengths and use those skills to produce something meaningful to them. Our different electives may look different on the surface, but that just reflect the fact that our students are different and teaching requires an understanding and appreciation of the individuality of each students. Schools needs to offer as many roads to learning as possible and offering ways for students to explore and connect to their individual interests is one very important way. I am happy to see we do that well here at VTHS and are continuing to work on ways to increase these roads.

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