Oregon Children’s Theatre is gearing up for election season with “Duck for President.” Based on the popular book by the author of “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type”, and “Giggle, Giggle, Quack,” it’s the story of a Duck who tires of farm work and decides to run for office. The play offers great opportunities to connect the arts to civics education and the 2012 election!
When he gets fed up with farm chores, Duck decides to challenge Farmer Brown to an election. But he soon discovers that being in charge of the farm is hard work! So he decides to run for governor—then president—kissing babies, hitting the late-night talk show circuit, and learning a lot about our political process along the way.
With today’s super-fast news cycle, which seems to thrive on negative media and attack ads, it’s easy to grow weary and tune out campaign messages. Duck for President highlights election season in a positive and funny light. As Duck becomes more and more involved in politics, he quickly learns about the challenges that candidates face in getting people to vote for them, including the promises that candidates feel compelled to make (pizza, anyone?), but he also sees the positive side of being able to help people and to make a difference in the way things are run.
Theater is a great way to engage kids and teach them in a fun, interactive environment. With Duck for President, OCT is taking dull, confusing, adult-centric concepts and presenting them in a way that helps decode the election process for them. Today’s kids are media savvy, but what might make them interested in politics? How can we make politics seem relevant to them? Are there ways to get them more engaged? Kids already have many role models in their lives. What do they think makes a good leader?
Exploring these questions led to the development of some great activities to help kids feel more invested in the process and to understand the importance of being involved in their community.
For starters, Duck is on the campaign trail! He has a platform, a campaign team, and even a Web site. The mock campaign is a humorous way to show kids different aspects of what it’s like to run for office, providing laughs for parents, too. Like a real campaign, there are campaign videos, ads, news reports, a Barbara Walters-style interview, and a gaffe or two as Duck wades into the political waters! Follow his progress and find out Duck’s stance on such issues as the environment, foreign policy (he recently met with a delegation of geese from Canada) and energy conservation at www.duckforpresident.org or on OCT’s Facebook page.
Even though many audience members aren’t of voting age, we want kids to know that they do still have a voice. Before the play begins, kids will have a chance to cast their votes for real presidential candidates. Results will be tallied and shared with audiences from the stage (cumulative results will also be shared)!
In addition to weekend performances for families, OCT offers school matinee performances during the week. One of OCT’s goals as an organization is to provide school audiences with curriculum connections and opportunities for learning beyond students’ trip to the theater.
An estimated 10,000 K-3 students will see “Duck for President” on a school field trip. Seeing live theater is always a powerful experience for young people, and for many school audience members, it’s the only live arts experience they’ll have all year. Fan mail from students emphasizes the impact: “It was super fantastical—my favorite part was the whole thing.” “I did not want to leave, it was a blast.” Feedback from teachers illustrate that live theater is not only fun and engaging—it also strengthens students’ appreciation of reading and language arts: “My students could not stop talking about [the play]. They were comparing their favorite parts, talking about what was funniest, and comparing it to the book.”
Providing teachers with free resources is one of the ways OCT deepens student experiences. Teachers receive complimentary tickets to preview performances and also attend backstage tours with OCT’s technical director. Each production also has a free teacher resource guide filled with discussion starters, activities tied to educational standards and learning goals, and reading resources provided by the Multnomah County Library. Duck’s quest for the presidency isn’t entirely filled with pure intentions, but it does provide ample room for discussion about what makes a good leader and citizen, fairness and democratic process, and how to achieve big change on the grassroots level—topics that directly connect to social sciences educational standards for primary grades.
To learn more about OCT’s performance schedule and gather information to share with your school’s PTO, check out our website: www.octc.org or the Duck campaign page at www.duckforpresident.org.