Living in an Arts Integration Dream World

I had the pleasure of ending my week with a delightful residency planning meeting that I’m sure teaching artists everywhere would envy.

First off, there’s a giant ice cream cone outside the school. What a dream.

Secondly, their kindergarten class pet is a bunny. Named NORMAN. And the teacher let him out of the cage to hop happily around the room while we chatted. I’m already trying to figure out how to integrate him into our drama lessons.

I saved the best part for last. Beyond the giant ice cream cone and Norman, this kindergarten teacher (let’s call her Ms. W.) is a dream. Ms. W. first found out about Metro through a summer workshop for teachers that the company did through another organization called CharacterPLUS. She learned a few drama activities like Tour of a Place, Person to Person and Come My Neighbor and immediately started using them in her classroom. She was so excited by how these activities engage her students and so eager to learn more activities and ways to make stories come alive that she knew that a residency with a Metro teaching artist would be a powerful and fun learning experience for her students and herself.

But of course it all comes down to funding these days. It’s nothing new that schools are lacking money for residencies like the ones we offer at Metro. But that didn’t stop Ms. W. She wrote a grant- and got it! So here we are, planning a five-lesson story drama residency for a dream-like, well-behaved, empathetic kindergarten class with a teacher that could not be more invested in the power of the arts.

Ms. W.’s passion for teaching comes through in everything she says. She realizes that kindergarteners are active, and she harnesses their energy through kinesthetic learning activities. She does movement and yoga with them almost every day, in addition to the drama activities she learned this summer. The school has placed a high priority on character education, and Ms. W. infuses it in everything she does with her class. “It’s a big thing for me because I just don’t believe it’s ever acceptable to treat others poorly.”

So the short story is that I seem to have stumbled into the position of getting to create the lesson plan of my dreams that involves story drama, creative behavior management techniques, storytelling elements and listening skills. For kindergarteners (my favorite age group of the week). Another cool thing? Meredyth the teaching artist one year ago would have been daunted by the open-ness of this teacher in terms of curriculum planning. But now I am so excited by the creative freedom and this teacher’s willingness to learn and collaborate. The possibilities are endless, and I LOVE IT.

If you had a chance to create a dream residency, what would you do and which age group would you choose?

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