School Spotlight: Theater Program at Evergreen Park
Critical thinking is a major part of development for elementary students. One program at Evergreen Park World Cultures Elementary is teaching kids to think outside of the box through theater.
“That’s the biggest piece for me that students hear stories and that they are asking critical questions and not receiving information in a passive way,” says Lindsey Samples with the Children’s Theatre Company
We are all consumers of literature, including kids. However, the way we relate to those stories can vary based on our own culture.
“This class really allows students cross culturally to gain knowledge about each other,” added Samples. “They get to share their stories with each other and I think that’s why the program is so important.”
Program Teaches Critical Thinking
The Neighborhood Bridges Program at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School teaches kids how to be conscious of the stories they are consuming. Now in its third year, the program teaches the foundations of theater. School officials say it’s in high demand and not easy to add to a school’s curriculum.
“The critical literacy part of the theater portion is to take the story and turn it in a way,” says Samples. “We want them thinking about characters whose voices weren’t heard. Then, we encourage them to give that character a voice in their version. We encourage that kind of thinking and creativity.”
The program lasts a year. At the end, students perform one of the stories they learned in front of their families and friends.
“In the middle of the year we do a peace play,” says Vanessa Wood, curriculum integrator at the school. “It’s a story about conflict resolution so however that may look is what they do.”
In the spring, students attend the Crossing Bridges Festival at Children’s Theatre Company.
“We knew that it was an opportunity that we could not turn down,” added Wood. “There is so much be given to us from the Children’s Theatre for this program that it was just something we had to take.”
Students Learn About Other Cultures
While it’s an opportunity to bring kids out of their shell it also helps them relate to other people who might be different than them.
“Currently at Children’s Theater we are developing curriculum around Muslim-American stories,” added Samples. “We did a little bit of the curriculum last year to test it out. What we found that students who are Muslim and received that story telling in our program all of the sudden their classmates became really interested in them and curious. They were asking all these questions and the Muslim students were delighted to be able to share that part of themselves that they had never been able to share before.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Children’s Theatre and programs they offer, click here.