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North Central Health District Tackles Teen Health Choices through the Performing Arts

December 13, 2013

Orginally published Jan. 09, 2012

“The performance was phenomenal,” said Valerie Hicks, Youth Development Coordinator for the North Central Health District. Three hundred spectators filled the Douglass Theatre in Macon as students presented Teens: What to Know and What to Do, under the directorship of the Georgia College and State University (GCSU) Theatre Department, GCSU Nursing Department, and the Teen Scene Youth Center in North Central Georgia. The focus of the short performances dealt with sex, bullying, body image and teen pregnancy.

The 25 participating Macon teens joined students of Karen Berman’s Improvisation for Social Change class at GCSU, which collaborated with Sallie Coke’s Pediatric Nursing course to develop scenarios dealing with social issues and used the performing arts to teach young teens about the social pressures of teen pregnancy and drugs. The teens were asked to make decisions to problem-solve and determine how the plays should end and how to avoid similar problems in real life. Hicks, Berman and Coke are hoping teens will remember these life lessons should they ever face similar situations.

“The Douglas Theater was packed with parents, community members and supporters,” said Coke. “Georgia College can be very proud of their students. The teens, nursing students and theater students did an amazing job and really worked well together. The community and teens were given a chance at the end of the plays to ask health-related questions that were answered by the nursing students, Ms. Hicks and myself.”

The partnership with the GCSU Nursing and Theatre Departments provided an opportunity to educate youth about health and social issues through a series of short drama performances at the Teen Scene Youth Center in Macon. The three partners collaborated to educate and engage teens through non-traditional teaching regarding current teen issues such as bullying, sex, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, self-imaging and self-esteem. According to GCSU, the plays were modeled on the problem-solving work of Brazilian theater director, writer and politician, Augusto Boal, where spectators and actors become one. GCSU used Boal’s method to transform all 300 spectators into active participants in the theatrical experience of Teens: What to Know and What to Do. Moreover, the spectators became spect-actors.

Funded under the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Adolescent Health and Youth Development (AHYD), the partnership included a creative development of health information according to Hicks. The GCSU students in pediatric nursing, health and improvisation for social change have changed the lives of the kids at the Teen Scene Youth Center in Macon.

“The teens bring creative solutions to the difficult problems posed by the plays,” said Dr. Berman, chair of the Georgia College Theatre Department. “The partnership offers a chance to inform other teens and parents in the community of healthier ways to manage teens’ real-life problems.” On the night of the performance, Berman commented that there were so many important lessons in the plays which opened up a dialogue between parents and teenagers.

Hicks told PHWEEK that the existing relationship with GCSU in Milledgeville and Dr. Sallie Coke allowed the partnership to blossom to a new level. “Each week, the GCSU nursing and drama students drove 35 miles to Macon to teach the youngsters about making healthy choices for life through the performing arts.”

On a weekly basis, the GCSU nursing students, explained the medical research pertaining to the subject matter while the theatre department students, wrote and performed the skits. The students were informed as the college students performed and integrated factual, social and medical information into their presentations. The performing theatre students paused at intervals and discussed the scenes to engage students in an open dialogue.

Once the college students completed their performance, they led the Teen Scene Center students in a discussion about solutions to the problem. The Teen Scene Center students were then allowed to perform the skit based on their solutions. Afterwards, the nursing students debriefed the group by distributing a fact sheet and discussing the medical and social risk factors. The nursing students then led the Teen Scene Center students in a game to reinforce their knowledge of the public health information.

“The kids loved the interaction and edu-tainment with the GCSU college students,” added Hicks. “They have asked if GCSU college students can teach every day at Macon’s Teen Scene Center because they enjoyed the creative process and health education. They can’t wait until the next performance in the spring of 2012.”

The concept for the play began when Berman and Coke attended a faculty workshop on incorporating service learning in courses. The two professors struck up a conversation about Coke’s work with the Teen Scene Center in Macon and realized they could collaborate to make a difference in the lives and health of local teens in Macon.

“This collaboration is proof of the endless reach we can have in our community by sharing resources and ideas,” concluded Hicks.
For more information on the Adolescent Health and Youth Development and Teen Scene Center in Macon, contact Valerie Hicks at 478-751-4009 or vhhicks@gdph.state.ga.us.

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