Standing at the front of the classroom with the confidence of a seasoned teacher, Parker student Liam Fay led a group of educators through his course: Improv Techniques in the Classroom.
It was a hot day in the middle of August and the last day of Cajon Valley School District’s professional development week. Liam was leading a breakout session of his innovative course, which he created to help educators incorporate improv into their classroom structure.
Liam is passionate about improvisation and knows how beneficial it can be to build team unity and strength. Using the “yes, and…” technique -- the foundation of improv -- students show support for their fellow classmates (the “yes”) and build off of their ideas to improve whatever task they might be working on (the “and...”).
Improv can get students motivated, help them concentrate on a single goal and grow stronger together as a class. Liam knows this well, not only from his time spent in theater, but also from the educational outreach program he helped spearhead with Parker Robotics beginning his freshman year.
Liam, along with his fellow classmates, started playing improv games with members of the robotics team, the W.A.R. Lords, at their overnight competitions. The games were not only fun, they helped bring members closer together. As teacher Ryan Griggs knows, the secret to a successful robot is a strong, unified team.
Griggs has run Parker’s wildly successful robotics program since its inception in 2007. The program started with just 10 members; on Wednesday, Sept. 13, Griggs was sorting through a roster of 79 interested students.
But robotics is more than just building robots, especially at Parker. It also involves education and community outreach. The W.A.R. Lords have taken those aspects of Parker’s mission and run with them.
“Education is a big component of our robotics program. Orion Ed. emcompasses several different education programs,” said Griggs.
The team created its Orion Ed. program to teach and support robotics programs across San Diego County and the region. Liam’s improv course developed from Orion Ed, but has since grown beyond the Parker program.
In 2017, Liam taught his course at the F.I.R.S.T. Championship Competition in Houston to fellow robotics clubs from around the country. He also took it to Teach for America and created a website for educators from around the world to access and use in their own classrooms.
The course was a hit among teachers in the Cajon Valley School District back in August, at least one of whom pulled Liam aside to say she would be incorporating the tools into her regular classroom schedule.
“Improv is a fun way to work together and to make people more comfortable with each other,” said Liam, after finishing his first lesson at Cajon Valley Middle School on Aug. 11. “The version of the course that we teach to high schoolers is all about team-building in robotics and it’s an opportunity to outreach with other schools.”
Liam, who just entered his senior year at Parker, plans to continue his work after graduation and enter the education field himself. While he’s not certain where a career in education might take him, he has certainly laid the foundation for success.
To learn more about the course, “Improv Techniques in the Classroom,” visit www.liamjfay.com