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Whole School Drama – Half Moon Bay


The drama described below was developed by Evelyn Mann (Dunedin College of Education) in consultation with teacher Bonnie Leask (Half Moon Bay School) for the children of Half Moon Bay School, Stewart Island. All 28 children in the school were involved in the drama – from new entrants to year 8.


The purpose was to give students the opportunity to explore how people react when faced with a controversial issue. This could be adapted for other schools and new contexts.

The students played a "blanket role" as residents of Stewart Island who all belonged to the Concerned Citizens Group, which takes an active interest in the island's affairs.

The teacher played two characters:

  • a developer interested in building a luxury hotel on the island, and
  • Mrs Rose, an artist making a small income from her artwork, retired and a homeowner.

The action takes place in the present day.

Organisation / Planning

The adviser provided the teacher with challenging ideas, discussion on "next steps", and feedback on planning.


The teacher and students worked through the following sequence:

  • Tableaux In small groups, children present tableaux of life on the island.

    Through soundscapes and movement, they portray the island's natural features – forest and sea. Through dance they explore interactions between static shapes and things that move.

  • Blanket role The teacher talks with the children about being adult residents of Stewart Island who are faced with a problem.
  • Overheard conversations Playing the developer, the teacher is set up in a separate room with telephone, maps of the island, and brochures of luxury hotels. The teacher talks in an animated way to someone on the phone about the whole development scheme. The children pass quietly through the room in line, imagining they are passing an open window. They are instructed to look and listen, but not communicate in any way. They all hear snippets of conversation about buying land on Stewart Island for an enormous amount of money, about clearing land, and about building luxury hotels and the potential for a huge boost to tourism. They learn that more jobs would be available, and that people would be attracted to the island to live, as well as tourists.
  • Meeting of the community council Set up a meeting of members of the community council, who have heard the snippets of conversations, or rumours. At this meeting (chaired by a concerned resident – could be a teacher in role or a child) Mrs Rose (teacher) asks to speak. She reveals her dilemma. She has been made a very generous offer for her property and because she needs to make considerable repairs to her house and has little money she is tempted to take the offer. On the other hand, she lives here because of the environment and she is concerned that if the hotel goes ahead she will lose the very things she likes about the island.

    At the end of the meeting Mrs Rose walks the "Wall of Thought" (a technique whereby people speak their thoughts aloud). Everyone makes diary entries that night after the meeting (a writing opportunity that could be presented through tableaux).

    The community council meets again to help Mrs Rose with her decision. Pros and cons are presented to Mrs Rose to try and persuade her – one way or the other.

  • Confrontation – movement and chant in unison Groups form according to their feelings about the developer. The protest groups develop chants in unison, with movement, and maybe placards for when the developer arrives on the island. Support groups could do the same.

    The whole group of children is in role-play as the developer arrives on the island and is greeted by the protesters and supporters, on the wharf.

  • Resolution / finale – return to a meeting and hot seating Mrs Rose returns to the community council to announce her decision. She is "hot seated" to establish why she has made that decision.

    Mrs Rose leaves, again walking through the "Wall of Thought".


Other scenarios that might be developed:

  • The meeting between the developer and Mrs Rose.
  • A meeting between the developer and a delegation from the community council.
  • Writing letters to the Government to ask for intervention and decisive action.
  • Television interviews with Mrs Rose, the developer, and residents.
  • Mapping and drawing in preparing the site and plans for the hotel.
  • Writing job advertisements for working with the hotel.
  • Writing applications to those jobs.
  • Creating advertisements for new tourist ventures that might occur.
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