Imagination Makers uses the artistry, technique and discipline of theater to engage children in the deep learning of grade-level curriculum and the 21st-century learning skills of creativity, communication and collaboration. We train educators to master these dynamic skills, enhancing student performance on an ongoing basis.
Founded in 1980, Imagination Makers (IM) began by providing live theater for children. The company did performances of original plays created for young people, performed by professional adult actors and musicians, and toured to schools, reaching over 1 million children. IM won the 2014 Henry Award for Excellence in Educational Theater from the Colorado Theatre Guild and multiple years of NEA grant support for our performances.
After seeing our plays, schools began requesting deeper theater arts experiences for their students, so we created our education program. Since 1983, IM has conducted 51 residencies and arts education partnership projects in schools and communities across Colorado. We have made a strong impact on children with our programs over the years. However, we realized that if we taught theater skills to teachers, we could extend our impact to reach their future students. Beginning in 2009, we moved towards an arts education partnership (AEP) model centered on teaching students and teachers. In June 2013, IM decided to phase out our touring performances at the end of the 2013-14 school year. While the performance program enjoyed great success, changing school priorities, incredible results of our AEP programs, and funder preferences led us to refocus our organization completely on our arts education work.
Our Work in the Community
Today, IM works with partner schools across the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area to create custom-tailored opportunities for students to learn through theatre. Arts education connects curriculum to creativity, asking kids to think critically, find multiple solutions to complex problems, and work together with others to do so. IM has a 32-year history of using arts education programs as a way to teach these essential 21st century skills. But we don’t just teach these skills; we give children a chance to practice them in a supportive environment. Our approach to teaching through theater focuses on individual learning that engages all children, including English as a second language learners, students with physical, learning and emotional disabilities, and those with special needs. We meet the needs of students by adjusting activities so they can fully participate.
We equally encompass dedication to artistry and relevance to curriculum. This enables students to create work using theatrical techniques that tie to content learning goals in history, science, social studies, and language arts. IM’s rigorous approach provides multiple opportunities for students’ creative expression and content acquisition. This job embedded professional development supports teachers as they become proficient in using these powerful methods, positively impacting their future students for years to come.