Causal — Shazammm

The Beauty of School Theater… Unmasked 

From what I have observed as a teenager growing up in the public school system, all children have some sort of activity outside of school that helps them rewind and express who they are as blossoming individuals. Some students participate in sports, others draw or paint. Some even write stories and poetry. No matter what young people do in their freetime, it is vital for adults to acknowledge their interests and allow them to pursue their interests. As long as their hobbies do not cause harm to themselves or others, of course. 

The performing arts, in fact, is an umbrella term that shelters numerous pursuits – dancing, singing, and acting being the big three. If one were to think about it, the performing arts is a major factor that arouses joy and camaraderie within educational settings. Take high school cheerleading, for example. The activity consists mainly of dancing and chanting. Without the performing arts, what would make of cheerleading? In particular, what would make of high school sports? The games would be less exciting without the cheerleaders cheering the players on. The same goes for merely presenting a project in front of a classroom or reading a play out loud in English class. Both acts incorporate elements of acting, for they involve swaying audiences through speech.

The performing arts affect what students see and do in school more than we know. That is why taking away theater programs would cause catastrophe for the “full child.” In other words, for all children. Not just those who call themselves “theater kids.”. If school administrations refuse to fund for or support their theater programs, that means they do not view the performing arts as valuable in the academic world and, most importantly, for children.  

What “anti-performing arts” adults do not understand is that theater arts can actually boost communication skills and self-confidence among kids. In the article “Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement In Music and Theatre Arts,” by James Catterall, Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga, they write about the benefits of kids participating in theater-related activities, quoting Tony Jackson and Dorothy Heathcote, “Children learn about the art form as well as about other more instrumental ends related to personal or social development. Among the latter, Jackson enumerates learning about, ‘group interaction, discipline, language usage, self esteem, and movement skills.’ Heathcote reminds us also that drama provides situations where we can or must put ourselves into the place of another; thus empathy for others is a possible or likely outcome of the dramatic experience” {1999, paragraph 41}. It is additionally proven that participating in theater-related activities has the potential to enhance reading skills. Catterall, Chapleau, and Iwanaga compares the reading proficiency of theater kids and non-theater kids, “The involved students outscored the non involved students as of 8th grade; both groups gain skill as they proceed through high school; and the difference favoring students involved in theatre grows steadily to where nearly 20 percent more are reading at high proficiency by grade 12… This seems reasonable in that students involved in drama and theatre, according to our definition of intensive involvement, probably spend time reading and learning lines as actors, and possibly reading to carry out research on characters and their settings. In any case, theatre is a language-rich environment and actively engages students with issues of language” {1999, paragraph 47}. 

With theater opportunities accessible in schools, children have the chance to exercise their communication and language prowesses. The more they expose themselves to activities like performing, the more confident they will feel in their skin. 

To be clear, however, a child’s success in socializing or performing well at school does not depend solely on the theater arts. There are an array of creative activities out there that are healthy and beneficial for children to partake in. Also, every child’s interests are different. However, the theater is a phenomenal place to be a part of. Taking away theater opportunities in schools would also be depriving kids of chances to improve their social skills and self-confidence. The less opportunities they have to work on themselves, the slower it is for them to mature into young adults. 

According to the book “Social Skills of Children and Adolescents,” by Kenneth Merrell and Gretchen Gimpel, there are five common dimensions that form the concept of social skills: peer relations, self-management, academic, compliance, and assertion. I would like to highlight the importance of peer relations in terms of socialization. Merrel and Gimpel define this dimension as appearing “to be dominated by social skills that reflect a child or youth who is positive with his or her peers. Such skills as complimenting or praising others, offering help or assistance, and inviting others to play or interact appear to describe this dimension well” {1998, pg. 12}. It also incorporates the following: “social interaction, prosocial, interpersonal, peer preferred social behavior, empathy, social participation, sociability-leadership, peer reinforcement, general, and peer sociability” {1998, pg. 12}. 

There is a distinct connection between theater and peer relationships. In the article “The Impact of Participation in Performing Arts on Adolescent Health and Behaviour: A Systematic Review of the Literature,” by Norma Daykin, Judy Orme, David Evans, Debra Salmon, with, Malcolm McEachran and Sarah Brain, they detail one case study in particular about the performing arts helping with social skills, “The impact of drama interventions on social skills and interaction was explored in a mixed methods study by Walsh-Bowers and Basso (1999). This study focused on two drama interventions with seventh grade children in elementary schools in Ontario, Canada. The first of these involved 24 students at a rural elementary school in a class of 33 who with their parents agreed to take part in a 15-week drama intervention. This group was compared with a class in a smaller school in the region, which did not receive the drama programme… The quantitative data yielded ambiguous results. However, significant improvements in parent rating of social skills were reported in the intervention group over the comparison group” {2008, pg. 257}. 

In short, theater-related activities produce stronger peer relationships among children and, overall, healthy, well-rounded students. 



About Shazammm

I like cake.
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