This fall, Arts to Grow kicked off our ninth program at Elysian Charter School in Hoboken, NJ with a Theater Arts program. The class, which has 23 students in grades three through five, focused on theater performance and play development.
Our Teaching Artist Candace Clift lead the 12 week program. To help the students learn to function as an ensemble and build their focus, Candace had the students try an exercise in which they stood in a circle and only one student could sit down at a time until the entire class has been seated. The students never knew who would sit next, and if two students sat at the same time then the entire group had to get up and start over. Completing this exercise successfully required each student in the group to pay attention to, anticipate, and respond to each other’s movements.
When they first started, the students had trouble with this exercise. Instead of giving up, they asked Candace for more time to practice. Weeks later, they still began each class excitedly wondering how far they would get this time. One week they had five students sitting down before they had to start over; the next week, they got up to eight! The students were thrilled with their improvement and excited to keep going, eager to hone their ensemble skills even further. After a few weeks of practice, they were finally able to complete the exercise and end with all of the students sitting down.
Over the course of the semester, the children wrote four short plays. In the process they learned about concepts such as storytelling, character development, and setting. One of these stories, “Cha-Ching!” tells the story of a female boxer, Rowina, who wins a match against the male Heavyweight Champion, only to see the prize awarded to her opponent instead. When Rowina realizes the match was rigged, she and her coach convince the corrupt boxing promoter to set things right and give Rowina her well-deserved prize. This and three other student-written plays were performed for the students’ peers, families, and community at the end of the program.
All Arts to Grow programs are made possible through the generosity of our donors. To find out how you can help bring arts education to more children in need, please visit our website or click here to donate.