Thursday, October 16, 2014

Acting Out: Orpheum Programs Impact Education Reform

Let's add some History to the mix! Students
gaze at the historic Orpheum as they wait for
the show to begin! The Student Matinee Series
brings together hundreds of kids from all
schools and backgrounds to enjoy the arts.
With the forthcoming Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education, there's been a lot of talk about our Education programs and how they'll grow with the completion of our new building.  What many don't realize is that we actually began educating students on the arts in the mid-1990s.  Years later, the Orpheum is not only a leader in education, it's an innovator.

For those who have been keeping up with the education convo, you've been pummeled with buzzwords like "common core," "education reform," and maybe even "arts integration."  For a lot of us, it's hard to determine what these terms really mean for our kids, but it sure sounds good!  Fortunately, the Orpheum understands it backwards, forwards, sideways and upside down.

Our stellar Education Department works diligently to use the arts as a way to make ALL subjects easier for students to understand (arts integration or, more appropriately, teaching through the arts). 

Let's take our upcoming Family and Student Matinee production Dream Carver, playing in January, as an example.  The show isn't just a performance of handcrafted puppets with Broadway-trained puppeteers so that students can experience the art of puppetry - although that is part of it.  Students will walk away with curriculum connections (a much better term for common core) in the Fine Arts, Health and Well-Being, Language Arts, and Social Sciences.  Schoolhouse Rock Live!, playing November 14 for families, uses the classic cartoon to make learning fun in areas such as Math, Science, Technology, Language Arts, and Social Sciences.  Each experience gives students an academic takeaway beyond that of seeing a performance.

In this Intro to Teaching Through the Arts class, teachers
discover first-hand how students can demonstrate
comprehension of classroom subject matter through
targeted art projects. In this case, teachers show how they
understood a tale about Athena by interpreting what her
armor would look like based on the information and
situations presented in the story.
And it's not about asking teachers to bring students to our shows and then leaving them to figure out the rest.  Teachers are provided with study guides to shows, we bring both Broadway and Kennedy Center certified teaching artists into the classroom, we offer professional development programs for teachers, and we host a grant program that allows teachers to apply for free and discounted tickets to our Student Matinee series. 

The Orpheum even encourages extracurricular learning through its Summer Camps and Broadway Master Classes

In addition, the Orpheum works side-by-side with the Shelby County School system to not only make sure that what we're doing is relevant, but that we're actively encouraging education reform that meets our state's needs.

During the 2013-2014 season, the Orpheum's Education programs served 258 schools, including 11 charter schools; 42,851 students and families through the Student Matinee and Family Series; and 165 teachers through our professional development workshops.

What's cool is that these are things we've been able to accomplish without the new Centre.  Just think of what we can do with it.  As it stands, we're bursting at the seams.  The Centre is going to help us expand our teacher workshops for an expected attendance of 320 teachers per year, that's a 95% increase over what we can accommodate right now.  Overall the new Centre is going to help us reach 100,000 students, families, and teachers per year, or 35% composite growth.  And last but not least, we'll be able to offer programs in technical theatre.  Students who want to learn about lighting design or sound mixing will finally have the chance to get that kind of training at the Orpheum.

Basically, great things have been happening, and there are amazing things afoot!  We encourage you to check out the Education pages on our website to see what we're doing and how you can get involved.  Of course, whether or not you're an educator, parent, or student, you can still lend your support through our Brick Campaign or by giving to the Orpheum Centre.

The arts are the gateway to making learning more fun and engaging so that students are motivated to see academics as a passion more so than an obligation.  With your help, we are making it happen!

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