The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum
Warm Up: Brainstorming Session
What do students already know about the mining industry?
- Hold a 15-minute brainstorming session asking students what they know about the mining industry (past and present). There are no wrong answers.
- Record students’ responses on chart paper.
- Ask students to reflect carefully on one another’s responses. Are they surprised by their depth of knowledge on the subject? What information is missing? How will they find that information?
- Next have students list any contrasting thoughts that appear in the brainstormed responses. (e.g. “mining jobs pay well” and “mining jobs are life-threatening”)
Ask students to pull out all the contrasting responses and create a new chart of opposing viewpoints.
Families need the income mining provides.
Families are being destroyed by mining.
Unions advocate for the workers.
Unions divide workers.
Mining provides coal for electricity.
Mining destroys the environment.
- Once this chart is complete, have students choose one set of opposing viewpoints to investigate further. Students may work individually or in groups to research different aspects of the issues being examined.
- Have students research the opposing perspectives while considering these questions:
- Who has a stake in these issues?
- What are the social implications?
- What are the economic implications?
- What role does the media play?
Ask students to contribute any other questions they think are relevant.
- Next (in anticipation of the culminating exercise), ask students to choose a role for themselves as a stakeholder in the issue (this could include a union worker, a worker in the mine who is against the union, mother/father of a mine worker, owner of the mining company, shareholder in the mining company, journalist in the community, environmental advocate, or any other roles students feel are relevant). Students should be encouraged to work together to decide if their characters can be family members, friends, enemies, or colleagues.
Culminating Exercise: Town Hall Meeting
- Inform the class that they will be participating in a structured improvisation in the form of a “Town Hall” meeting intended to help explore the issues they have identified and researched.
- Set up some parameters so that students are clear on what the goals are for the exercise. For example, determine the purpose of the Town Hall meeting. (Is it to decide if a new mine should be built? Is it to decide if a mine should be shut down?). Determine how long the improvisation will last (shorter is better, 3-5 minutes works well). Is there a resolution required at the end of the exercise (i.e. will the meeting end in a vote)?
- Decide as a class on a word that can be used to suspend the improvisation in case something needs to be clarified (i.e. a student can call “yellow” and everyone will drop their roles for a moment to clarify what is happening in the scene). Once the confusion is clarified, the improvisation can resume.
- Before beginning the improvisation, ask everyone to introduce their characters to the group so that they will not be strangers in the meeting.
- Hint for students: Students should be encouraged to find a way of introducing their character’s point of view when contributing to the discussion. A student could begin, for example, by saying “well it is no secret that I have been a long-time supporter of the union…” or “My name is Sam Smith and I have been living in this town for 40 years…”.
- Once all of the parameters are in place and students feel prepared to try the improvisation, use the Teacher in Role strategy to set the tone for the improvisation. Assume a leadership role such as the mayor of the town or community activist, and start the meeting by welcoming everyone and asking them to speak their minds freely on the issue at hand.
- When the time allotted for the improvisation has elapsed, bring the discussion to a close. Inform students that the improvisation is over and they are free to discuss out of role.
Spend some time as a class discussing what was learned through the improvisation.
- First, was the improvisation successful? Did everyone get a chance to participate? Was it too long? Too short? Does the class want to try the improvisation again with a different goal? Did students enjoy the exercise? Why or why not? What would they change about it?
- Next, discuss the improvisation itself. Was the community of characters able to find any common ground? Are they a group capable of coming to a resolution?
- Have the class write a special edition of the newspaper informing the rest of the town of what took place. Include headlines, the front page report, photos, opinion pieces, advertisements, classifieds and any other sections students feel would be relevant.
Warm-up: Hot Seating
This exercise is intended to help students think critically about the characters in the play and give them the opportunity to use their imaginations to determine why a character makes certain choices.
The Ontario Ministry of Education Arts Curriculum defines “Hot Seating” as “a convention in which students allow themselves to be questioned by the rest of the group. The questioners may speak as themselves or in role.” (pg. 225)
- Divide students into groups of five. Each student will assume the role of one of the characters in The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum (Margaret, Catherine, Ian, Grandpa, or Neil).
- One at a time, have students assume the “hot seat” and answer questions posed by the group.
- It is possible to do two rounds of this exercise. In the first, students will ask questions as themselves and in the second, students will ask questions as other characters from the play (i.e. Catherine could ask Margaret to explain her reasoning for harvesting the body parts).
Main Exercise – Writing in Role
The Ontario Ministry of Education Arts Curriculum defines “Writing in Role” as “writing done from the point of view of a character in a drama in order to deepen the writer’s understanding of the character and create or develop scenes that reflect this understanding. Some examples of forms that may be used include diaries, letters, and reports on significant events that indicate the character’s responses to those events.” (pg. 228)
In The Glace Bay Miner’s Museum, the MacNeil journals figure prominently in the story to serve as a reminder of the family’s strength during hard times. In this exercise students are asked to write from the point of view of a character of their choice (this could also include characters mentioned in the play, e.g. Peggy or the police officers who arrest Margaret after discovering her museum).
Ask students to write in role as their chosen character during the following events:
- Neil courts Margaret.
- Margaret decides to marry Neil.
- Ian joins the union.
- Neil decides to take a job in the mine.
- Margaret/Catherine/Grandpa learn of the accident in the mine.
- Choose your own event from the play to write about.
Culminating Exercise: Performance
- Ask students to read aloud or perform excerpts from their journal writing.
- Once students have shared their work, create a more in-depth performance piece by asking students to work in groups to create short scenes from their writing.
- They can also choose to do a choral speaking piece or add tableaux or movement in order to enhance the drama of their writing.
- Invite students from other classes to see your class’ performances.
- Send your students’ written work to the NAC for posting on our blog!