Many American high schools and some middle schools have theater opportunities for students. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 5% of elementary schools have any kind of formal theater program. At Baden Academy, not only do we offer after-school opportunities for students to perform, but theater class is a part of our weekly Elements program for all students in grades K-6. That means our students are in an extremely small percentage of elementary schoolers in the country who have the opportunity to learn in this powerful, unique way.
Just like our other Elements’ offerings, our theater program is interdisciplinary. Taking part in acting exercises, reading scripts, and getting the experience of performing on stage gives students an engaging way to learn and master important language skills like text analysis and public speaking. And studying theater is also a natural platform for better understanding history, geography, and world culture. By the time students graduate in sixth grade, for example, they will have studied everything from the plays of William Shakespeare, to E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web to the powerful Diary of Anne Frank, which work together to create a robust program of study.
In addition to enhancing academics, studying theater provides unparalleled opportunities for students to develop social and emotional skills. The complex processes in theater promotes patience, self-discipline, and self-confidence. Learning to explore a character within a story gives students the opportunity to develop empathy, compassion, and—quite often—a sense of humor! And working closely with others toward a challenging goal develops interpersonal skills such as collaboration and clear communication, both of which are very valuable in today’s world.
Finally, as stated in the overview section, we recognize the immense benefit of studying theater for its own sake. The theater really is a stage that gives students the freedom to become witches and princesses, ghosts and rabbits, wizards, knights, and queens, and this chance for exploration can have a profound effect on young people.
Students can further their performance skills in an annual fall play and spring musical, with rehearsals after school, and select students can take part in an enrichment class that leads to participation in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s long-running Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Competition. These kinds of experiences often lead our students to apply to Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in nearby Midland, and we are proud that so many of our students have been accepted to Lincoln Park and continue to thrive in that environment.