The play's the thing: ‘The Pilgrim Story’


Marlborough – "The Pilgrim Story," one of the hottest shows hitting the Jaworek Elementary School this holiday season, was met with glowing reviews from critics ranging from parents to grandparents who attended the single engagement at the school Nov. 16.

The three-act play took its audience back to the first meeting of the pilgrims and Native Americans and the creation of Thanksgiving. A treat for all those watching, the play is also a cleverly masked history lesson that teacher Jennifer Collins has created for her second-grade class, the stars of the play.

"An everyday challenge of being a teacher is finding unique ways that we reach all the learning styles of children," Collins said following the performance. "Participating in a play allows for children to practice learning via acting, singing, dancing, to name a few."

Maria Stefanov said she had to learn a lot about being a pilgrim to play the parts of both a pilgrim and a pilgrim child in the play, but that she was also able to learn a lot about Native Americans while rehearsing with her costars.

"When other people said their lines, that really teaches me about their [characters'] lives and what happened to them in the past," she said.

Jaworek Elementary School teacher Jennifer Collins works on scenery for "The Pilgrim Story" with Alex Morse and Maria Stefanov. PHOTO/MELISSA MUNTZ Jaworek Elementary School teacher Jennifer Collins works on scenery for "The Pilgrim Story" with Alex Morse and Maria Stefanov. PHOTO/MELISSA MUNTZ The children rehearsed their lines at home and in school over several weeks, excited to be a part of the play, yet unaware of the many skills they were taking with them beyond just a knowledge of early U.S. history.

"As part of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts, children need to be participating in oral language activities," Collins said. "Not only does this help the child's oral presentations but it also helps to make them feel more confident when the play is over."

Although some children are more comfortable on the stage, Collins said it was important for the children to realize that the performance is only as good as its most nervous actor.

"We talk a lot about teamwork and working as a group in our classroom. I am always trying to teach the children that if we all give our very best, we will succeed," Collins said. "In the end, the children see this and learn that if they follow through it usually works out."

For Alex Morse, who played both Squanto and a pilgrim child, performing with all of his classmates made it easier to go out and perform onstage.

"If you needed help, somebody else could always help you," he said.

Collins said she's hoping participation in the play has also given the children a greater appreciation for dramatic arts than they may have had otherwise.

"Some children don't get a chance to ever go to a live performance and the ones that do get to go don't always understand what it takes to get to the finished product," she said. "When they get to be part of all of it, they get a deeper understanding."

Although "The Pilgrim Story" was the first play Collins brought to the stage, she said dramatic arts have always been and will always be an important part of her students' classroom experience.

"I have found that children really retain so much of what they are learning by participating in a play because of the level of motivation, enthusiasm and interest that they invest," she said.

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