Ask Craig Robinson why arts education is every bit as important as science, math or English, and you’ll get a straight-forward answer.
“Science, Math, and English develop the basic skills necessary to function in society,” says the drama teacher at Ánimo Leadership Charter High School in Los Angeles. “Drama and the arts develop the skills necessary to appreciate life, to savor beauty, and to appreciate everything we work so hard to achieve. Drama and a course like English share many goals: developing the writing and thinking skills, analysis of text, and developing critical thinking. Yet Drama also develops interpersonal and social skills, collaborative skills, public speaking skills, and self-awareness.”
And one more thing: “Plus, it’s fun.”
Teaching the whole child
Drama teachers throughout Green Dot Public School’s campuses all share this same conviction: that arts classes are essential pieces to a student’s education.
“In order to educate the whole child, one must elevate the creative power of that child,” explains Cafabian Heard, who teaches drama at Fairley High School in Memphis, TN.
“The arts activate the creativity that we all possess. I truly believe that at some point in our lives, we envisioned the arts as part of our dreams and goals.”
Drama teachers also see how the arts fits into Green Dot’s mission to prepare students for success in college, leadership and life.
“I have seen shy and reserved students express themselves confidently,” says Perry Shields, the drama teacher at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School.
“I have seen students who never thought they could stand up and perform in front of a group of people do just that with passion and spirit. I have seen students bolster their memorization skills, which in turn supports brain function in other subjects.”
Participation in theater enhances student communication skills whether students are on stage learning to project their voice, in productions capturing the imagination of audiences, or in class learning to interpret scripts.
“I have seen English learners grow in their language acquisition in classes and clubs that require them to speak, jump out of their comfort zone, develop an accent, and explore comedy,” says Michelle Green, a current Green Dot Cluster Director and former Principal at a Visual and Performing Arts Academy in La Mirada, CA.
“When students engage in drama exercises like Improv, their ability to think critically and creatively is enhanced as sketches are co-created on the spot, in the moment,” adds Green.
Rayshonda Norfleet, who graduated this Spring from Fairley, sees drama’s influence in much the same way, if from the perspective of a student.
“My involvement in Drama Club helped me in life after Fairley in numerous categories,” she says. “Being on stage built confidence in me to accomplish my dream of being an actress. That’s something I carried with me after graduating: stay confident, no matter what people say.”
Her fellow Fairley graduate, Kayla Anderson, emphasizes how her time in drama boosted her confidence in herself.
“During my senior year, I encountered many, many hard battles, but there was one particular thing that impacted me to become the student I am today,” Kayla says.
“By participating in the Fairley High School drama department, I have gained confidence. My involvement in the program opened my eyes and drives my desire to experience more things in theater, and also pushed me to do things outside of what I’m comfortable doing.”
Theater is life
Arts education is so critical that Green Dot has incorporated arts classes including drama into its daily curriculum. At Green Dot’s schools in Los Angeles, those classes go toward fulfilling the a-g requirements needed for students to get into California universities. But the drama, literally, doesn’t end when class is over. Drama clubs, which typically put on a performance each semester, add further depth to students’ understanding and learning.
“The students believe that drama gives them a voice,” says Rachel Kopera, Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School’s drama teacher.
“They believe the drama program helps them come out of their shell and builds their self-confidence. Students learn to work with people that they may not normally work with. They learn problem-solving skills. Students learn how to thrive in this world because theater is a metaphor for living your life.”
Drama programs throughout the Green Dot network can benefit from the generosity of supporters like you. Additional resources can help build the kind of theatrical experiences that put students on the path to college.