The classroom floor was not covered with tar, or burning sand, or 5-foot grass, but 8-year-old Lauren Yoo was still straining to get out of the imaginary scenarios.
She grabbed her pant legs and pulled with all her strength as students fell over around her, crawling and crying for help during what was supposed to be a sticky situation.
“The tar is really hard,” the third-grader said during her drama class at Dunsmore Elementary School. “So I had to use my whole body to pull it up.”
Some students took giant, laborious steps to get through the activity. Others moved in slow motion. They later hopped frantically across an imagined desert and hacked through a field of tall grass.
The activities were all part of teacher Kathleen Combs’ “creative drama” class, which challenges students to think of different ways to express themselves, Combs said.
“What I’m trying to show them here is how the imagination, physical self and emotional self connect,” Combs said, explaining that asking the children to physically illustrate each scenario pushes them to analyze problems differently than they would in a normal classroom setting.
Combs instructed a group of 20 students Thursday to take turns posing in unique positions on a chair, using a scarf as a prop to represent other objects and giving sensory descriptions of an orange, among other things.
There are many approaches to sitting in a chair, Combs explained to students, and not all of them are obvious.
Jennie Chacon, 8, sat with a hand behind her head and another on her hip, while 8-year-old Evan Dankowski turned the chair upside down before sitting on it and 9-year-old Ivan Valdez lay across it with his hand extended parallel to the ground.
“It helps them see that there’s not just one way to solve a problem,” Combs said.
Students were also challenged by the activity involving the orange, with Evan spending extra time holding the fruit to his ear and listening for a way to describe its sound.
“All I hear is it rubbing against my ear,” said Evan, keeping a finger plugged in his left ear as he continued to listen for a sound.
The orange sounded different to Jennie, who decided to bounce it against her cheek to make a “boing, boing” sound, she said.
The break from normal academic activities was exciting because it allowed students to enjoy expressing themselves, 8-year-old Justyn Chang said.
“I think the class is good for students to help them have fun and teach them to use their senses,” he said.
The drama class is new at Dunsmore and is supported by the school’s foundation. It will be offered in three one-hour sessions to every class, said Combs, who has taught creative drama for more than 20 years.