A school’s culture is a living, breathing activity; not a fixed entity as is commonly experienced by many school members. And it is always in play, either helping or hindering staff and student learning. The Snaps Project has devised a dynamic way to encourage school members to take responsibility for actively creating their school culture rather than being reactive to it. Grounded in a strong recognition of the myriad challenges and demands being faced by schools today, our team of trainers help staffs move from calcified environments in which staff and students get stuck in restrictive and at times self-defeating roles, to ones that encourage growth and creativity. This kind of fluid culture ensures that schools can maximize their capacity to be responsive to the changing needs of their often diverse and complex communities.
How do we help schools affect this kind of change? By offering a unique blend of improvisation and brain research: One, a revolutionary new method for learning and organizational development and the other, a cutting edge discovery in the field of neurobiology.
The Approach: Theatrical Improvisation or “Improv”
Improv is a wonderfully effective tool for developing school cultures. Its principal mechanisms can be found in almost every successful innovative endeavor from organizational development to scientific discovery and is being used successfully around the globe in business, education, psychology and medicine. Because improvisation requires careful listening, attentiveness to others, and acceptance of all “offers,” it is the foundation for building effective learning groups of any size. Through improvisation, staffs are empowered to respond immediately and inventively to each other and their environment. Equipped with a broad array of improv activities, our team of talented trainers helps staffs and students jumpstart creativity, take risks, become better learners, effectively manage stress, and forge collaborative relationships – all key to any successful learning organization.
As author and Snaps Project consultant, Dr. Carrie Lobman says, “As teachers and students experience the fun and success of improvisation, they will increase their capacity to focus and gain confidence, self-motivation and the willingness to access these skills when faced with unknown experiences.” (See Unscripted Learning:Using Improv Activities Across the K-8 Curriuclum.)
Knowlege of the Brain’s Neuroplasticity
Whether we’re leading professional development workshops, providing executive coaching, or building effective classroom teams, the Snaps Project makes use of some of the latest findings in neurobiology. Discoveries made through technology-aided brain research have shown that thinking, learning, and acting can actually change the brain’s functional and physical anatomy. This process is called Neuroplasticity — arguably one of the most important breakthroughs in neuroscience, overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging.
As he relays in his recent book, The Brain that Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge says “Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature… All of the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, insofar as they deal with human nature, are affected (by these discoveries), as are all forms of training.”
Snaps Trainers make these discoveries accessible to staffs and students as we train them to be proficient improvisers. It turns out that a bit of knowledge in this area goes a long way as these findings help staffs understand the extent to which the human brain is “hard-wired” to be reactive, while simultaneously having the capacity to “re-wire.” This knowledge further supports them to be freed up to try new performances as it equips them with the awareness that they can overcome brain limitations and open up possibilities. How might these discoveries impact on teachers’ understanding of learning and development? We invite you to embark on the wonderful discovery process that ensues when educators explore the potential of these findings for themselves and their students.
The Connection between Improv and Neuroplasticity
So, how do we bring this all together? Simply put, our fun and engaging improvisational workshops support staffs and students to go beyond themselves. At the same time, they attain some basic insight into the ways in which the collective creating of a new school culture can also support the growth and development of their brains!
Because improvisation is so effective in helping people to try new things, it also turns out it can jump start the brain’s development by creating new brain pathways. In essence, new activities—including new ways of thinking—can chart the course, and our brains then scramble to catch up. Individuals and communities can continuously create new kinds of relationships, take risks, and break out of limiting roles and rules, They can improvise and change to an extent previously thought impossible.