It’s been six months since the end of our After-School Creative Enrichment (ACE) theater residency at Norfolk’s Bay View Elementary School, and we look back fondly at this pilot program for third through fifth graders. Students worked together with their peers, educators, and A4L artists as they learned all aspects of theater staging. But that’s not all—the program focused on social-emotional skills, too. Parent Brittany Cottrill says the program made a real difference to her daughter Mikayla, now a rising fourth-grader.
“I could see my daughter’s confidence and understanding of emotions greatly increase during this program. She helped out behind the scenes and was very proud of herself. She showed compassion at home towards me in ways I hadn’t seen before. Mikayla also looked forward to being at practice!”
Students gave high marks to the program, with their own assessments showing:
- 93% gains in creative expression
- 90% gains in student-to-student connectedness
- 88% gains in student self-worth
At the end of the residency, students presented a program called “Courage and Kindness” to parents, friends, and teachers. Mikayla, who chose to work behind-the-scenes, helped out when there was a blip on stage and a student dropped a prop.
“They felt so bad. I tried to help them with their feelings. I liked the performance because people on stage were helping each other.”
“I was touched by the presentation. It brought out a lot of talent of the kids,” Brittany says. “It was awesome to see some of the children that we’ve known for years break out of their shell and use the acting talent that you wouldn’t ever know was there unless they were presented with this opportunity.”
Skits focused on how to show compassion to others. One particularly moving skit featured the real-life story of a student who had invited her whole class to her birthday party and then faced the disappointment of no one showing up. Stories like this helped teach the ACE participants how to be kinder and more empathetic toward others.
“With the specific skit, it was really just showing how friends can show friends compassion and be nice to one another in several different situations,” Brittany says. “I just really noticed Mikayla showing that at home towards me, like if it had been a long day and I was trying to get things done and on a schedule, her being more compassionate and more willing to help.”
The United Way of South Hampton Roads (UWSHR) helped fund the ACE theater residency. We thank them for making this project possible.
If you’d like to support our work in bringing arts education to children, please donate here.