Dream Bigger: One Teacher’s Experience with Learning through Theatre

Connie Kang is a third grade teacher at Highland Elementary School. She’s a child of a first generation immigrant and a fan of arts integrated education.

“Many parents are working to provide basic necessities for their families and don’t have the time or finances to look for outside programs or experiences,” said Connie. “Or being new to the country, they don’t have the know-how or the resources to find them. A child of first-generation immigrants myself, my model for the world was my school.”

Imagination Stage’s Learning through Theatre program provides a key cultural experiences – attending a live theatre production – with Montgomery County students and teachers and highlights importance of art in learning.
“Having the opportunity to go to a theater and be able to watch stories from all around the world and all throughout history is so valuable. I am a true believer that storytelling is such a powerful tool and this partnership gives us the ability to access it.”

Connie’s class attended a performance of Anatole: Mouse Magnifique this year, and every year from the minute the bus pulls up to the building, the energy is incredible says Connie.
“The theater itself is a sight to behold for many of our students. The stage, the props, the lighting, all echoing with the excited chatter of children! During the show, the kids are clearly engaged with their eyes and ears facing the direction of the action. They laugh, they get startled, they dance along, and they connect to the characters and the music.”
But that’s just half of the experience. Students also get the chance to ask questions of the actors, take photos, and bring all that energy back to school where they often deepen their connection by completing creative activities connected to the show.

“I will never forget the one year [teaching artists] from Imagination Stage actually came to our school and led a workshop with our third graders. We pushed back all the desks and the students got in a huge circle. One student, let’s call her Jane, was new to our school that year … and it was difficult for her to fit in.”

Jane was on the autism spectrum, and Connie says the other students often had a hard time understanding the many special things about her. Jane kept mostly to herself and had given up seeking a connection with her peers. Like any great teacher, Connie wanted to see Jane succeed and engaged her on her terms.

“I offered if she wanted to work with me or in a group of three. She actually chose to work in a group and she shined! She was dramatic, but in this particular activity, it became a strength for her. She led her group to a really creative idea and when they performed, the whole class cheered.”

From the cheers and laughter at the end of every Learning through Theatre show, it’s clear that students enjoy this experience. It’s a favorite program among Imagination Stage staff too due to its amazing impact on students, the community, and teachers like Connie.

“When [the students] are presented with all these things through Imagination Stage’s storytelling, they are able to open up their imagination, empathy, and understanding,” said Connie. “They can dream bigger and approach differences with kindness and curiosity.”

Thanks to Connie Kang for her time telling Imagination Stage about her experience. Thanks also to the Learning through Theatre lead sponsors GEICO and PNC.

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