Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CFCC Sets the Stage for “Kids and Theater:” A Student Fellow’s Personal Reflection on Arts Education

Attention actors, writers, stage managers, and directors. The Center for Families, Children and the Courts is proud to announce the première of the “Kids and Theater” project!! This project is part of CFCC’s broader initiative to promote arts education in the Baltimore City Public Schools. Currently, CFCC runs a “Kids and Cameras” project which has been very successful. “Kids and Theater” will be piloted in one lucky school next spring. The program will be a ten week course where students will learn how to write and perform their own plays. CFCC will be hiring a professional acting coach to direct the program, and I will be helping with producing the plays.

Our goal is to help students in our Truancy Court Program (TCP) become more engaged in their school through the arts. This program will help our TCP students develop their writing and acting skills and their team-working skills. These skills will enable our TCP students to become more confident with themselves and their academic abilities.

For me, the arts played a vital and integral part of my education and character development. When I first began school, my grades were terrible. I had trouble paying attention in class and learning basic concepts. When my parents got me involved in band and acting, my grades began to drastically improve. I moved from the Chapter I, a program helping slower students, to an honor roll student in the advanced class.

My problems in school stemmed from a lack of engagement. The arts allowed me to tap into my creativity which I was able to use in other subjects. For example, music involves rhythms and time signatures which are useful to mathematics calculation. Acting involves memorization and comprehending a character and storyline which are useful for reading comprehension.

The arts changed my life, but I'm not the only one. According to recent studies from the Dana Consortium , students who are engaged in arts education have enhanced brain cognition1. Students in the arts score higher on IQ tests than non-arts students. Tests also show that arts students have enhanced attention spans, greater aptitudes with language and mathematics, and are more empathetic than non-arts students.

The highlight of my artistic career was in my senior year of high school. I was a member of the DeMatha Wind Ensemble which had just won the WGMS “Young Artist in the Community Award.” As part of the award, we got to perform at the Kennedy Center. When I walked on that stage, I was in awe and disbelief. How did I get here? When I started school, I was a failure and now I was standing at the Kennedy Center – weeks before my graduation and about to go to college. Then, I realized something – I may never perform at the Kennedy Center, but the arts helped me realize that I can do anything I want.

Now, I am in my last year of law school enrolled as a CFCC Student Fellow. At our CFCC team meetings, I hear about students struggling in school and can't help but think that I was like they are a few years ago. With this new program, I hope the TCP students will be able to overcome their problems in school like I did. Perhaps one day, some of our students will go on to become actors, directors, producers, set designers, or writers. Perhaps some of our students will get the extraordinary experience like I had to perform at the Kennedy Center. What is certain is that this program will help every student realize that anything is possible and with hard work they can reach their dreams. “Kids and Theater” break a leg!
1 See Gazzangia, Michael, Learning, Arts, and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition, The Dana Foundation Press 2008.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention, and for sharing your story. Hopkins is doing good work in this area, too, with its Neuro-Education Initiative:
    I wish the theater program every success.
    Nicky Penttila, Dana Foundation


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