Milo celebrates a green Christmas

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An Evergreen Theatre artist helps Milo Community School students rehearse a scene for the Christmas play.

MILO – School Christmas concerts and plays are a must-see event for many parents, but they come at a cost.

Milo Community School, however, was able to avoid the usual sacrifice of instructional hours for rehearsal time by taking a green twist on the traditional white Christmas.

After a positive experience with Evergreen Theatre last year, the Palliser school booked them for a Christmas run this time. Instead of the typical Yuletide fare, the Calgary-based theatre company helps students create an original play based on the science lessons they’re learning in class.

“It’s definitely the way I would love to go every year, if we could,” said teacher Bernadette Kirk of the experience. “We did curriculum things all week, so there’s no classroom time wasted.”

Through the theatre company’s artist-in-residency programs, students show family and friends what they’ve learned about science and the environment. Given the time of year, the Milo Community School production was provided a Christmas theme – with students stepping in when Santa’s plans for building a workshop go awry.

Students learning about the regions of Alberta helped Santa decide where to build his workshop, while others used their space exploration curriculum to help find ways to send the workshop into orbit.

Kirk’s class helped the Joly Old Elf with blueprints. They brainstormed what they wanted the audience to learn about structures – like triangles being the strongest shape, or the strength of arches – and how they could transfer that knowledge into a real-life scenario.

The goal is to help students gain a greater understanding of what they’re being taught in class, she said.

“It’s more in your long-term memory if you act it out like that. It’s not just a quick fact that you learned to write a test and it’s gone. You lived it for a week,” said Kirk, reflecting on the students’ experience with Evergreen the year prior.

It seems to have worked for Dallin Bertschy. He played the role of a bald eagle in last year’s production, which revolved around the great outdoors, and still remembers his line.

What the Grade 6 student likes most about science is doing experiments and the potential for “explosions.”  His favourite part about the production?

“Probably having the most lines to memorize. I’m playing Santa this year,” said Bertschy with pride.

All of the students in the kindergarten to Grade 9 school took part in the production. Through the week-long workshops they learned such fine arts skills as scene building, script writing, character development, choreography, song writing and improvisation.

“I just like the acting,” summed up Caitlyn Koch, who played the role of a worker elf helping Santa find the best materials to build his new workshop with.

The most challenging thing about the play for the Grade 3 student was remembering when to say her line: “We need strong materials to build!”

Funding to bring in Evergreen Theatre was provided by the Milo School Foundation.

See images from rehearsal and the performance below.