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Theater in Schools: Not Just a Bunch of Drama
posted by: Cindy Omlin | April 05, 2013, 08:24 PM   

With budget cuts affecting many schools, art programs are usually the first to go. Unfortunately, the increased demands for standardized testing and student achievement cause art, and especially drama, to take a back seat to core subjects like English and math. However, Pamela DiPasquale, Director of Education at award-winning Cleveland Play House, has launched a Classroom Matinee Touring Program, which accommodates the realities of time constraints, budget, policy, and testing by bringing plays to the classroom. 
Currently the program is touring Margie & Mike to 12 schools in Ohio. "The tour has proven very compelling," Pamela says. "One character lives in poverty and wants to care for her father, and she generates incredible empathy among the students. During a post-show Q and A, one student said, 'Isn't this what Martin Luther King would want us to do?' Kids are making real human connections."

For many impoverished students, arts are the only way of seeing a world beyond their four block neighborhood. Theatre opens their eyes to a different reality, allowing them to dream bigger. Additionally, art programs like Classroom Matinee Touring program can be designed to meet the expectations for learning in the Common Core Standards for both Social Studies, and English Language Arts.

Studies show that children who are exposed to drama learn better. A 1999 study by UCLA professor Dr. James Catterall, following 25,000 children over a ten-year period, found that children who were involved in drama and music had higher reading and math skills than children who did not. In 2004 the Dana Foundation released the results of a three-year studyheaded by Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga called "Learning, Arts and the Brain" that suggested fine arts instruction could help to focus children's attention and improve their thinking skills.

As schools continue to face budget and time constraints, teacher must find innovative ways to bring theater and other fine arts to the classroom. Collaborate with other teachers about how to incorporate drama into the classroom. Click here for some examples.

How do you incorporate fine arts into your classroom?
Comment below.

Originally posted by Ruthie at AAE.

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