Arts Education Partnerships
When a school partners with Imagination Makers, professional teaching artists will design, model, and lead theater activities that are tied to schools' curricula and meet theater standards of the National Core Arts Standards. We combine arts education with job-embedded professional development, training teachers by modeling drama techniques with their current students, then coaching the teachers to apply those techniques within their own classrooms over several years.
In the Classroom
Each partnership at a school consists of individual projects in multiple classes. In each class, the Imagination Makers teaching artist (TA) models ways to teach a part of the curriculum by leading students in activities of theatrical experience and creation. Between IM teaching artist-led sessions, classroom teachers conduct their own sessions incorporating IM techniques. This split-session approach gives teachers a chance to try implementing the theatrical tactics they’ve just seen modeled. After each TA-led session, the TA debriefs with the teacher so they can reflect upon the experience:
We use drama curriculums that are sustainable and repeatable. They have either proven successful over the years and been adapted to meet the teacher’s needs, or newly created to meet a teacher’s curricular goals. We do process drama—for example, 4th graders are required to study Colorado state government, and IM teaching artists work with them to be "in role" as legislators to understand how a bill becomes a law.
Other projects use theatrical techniques such as character interviews and tableaus. These have been used to increase reading comprehension and learn point-of-view writing. They have also been used to teach a science unit on the water cycle for a 5th grade class. All projects include some type of relevant peer performance. These classroom projects are transformative in reaching students who may not be successful using other classroom methods:
Behind the Scenes
Ongoing coaching and support is provided for teachers trained in past years who are using theater techniques on their own. These sessions give educators a chance to raise questions, address challenges, and devise tactics for using theater techniques in additional areas of the curriculum. Customized to meet each teacher’s needs, they can take the form of planning meetings, classroom observation with feedback from the teaching artist, and/or TA solution modeling of problem areas the teacher encounters.
We maintain relationships with our partner schools over several years, providing deep engagement for students, but also sustained, successful interaction with the classroom teachers trained in applying our theatrical techniques to other curricula in future years.
Each school believes so strongly in the benefit of this work for their students and teachers, that even with limited funds, they pledge financial resources to match the grant funds Imagination Makers secures annually to support our programs. These school collaborations are invaluable in ensuring that underprivileged students get more than brief exposure to the arts. Because of our supporters, we are able to offer more hours of classroom instruction and coaching than individual schools can afford on their own, further deepening the impacts of our approach within our partner schools.
All partnerships incorporate student self-evaluations that measure intrinsic benefits from arts participation such as increased confidence while speaking in public. At the end of each project, all participating teachers evaluate and measure the impacts of IM’s presence in their classrooms. For our most complex and in-depth projects, we include pre-and post-testing tied to state standards. Our TAs spend from 4 to 24 hours in each classroom over multiple sessions, and 3-15 hours outside the classroom planning with and coaching teachers. The result: sustained, in-depth study by students and educators.
As an example from a recent in-depth project: At Foster Elementary in 2015, 4th grade students studied Colorado History through a two-month drama project. Using test results from the Colorado standardized tests for social studies, the two classes who participated in the drama project were compared against a control group of two other 4th grades at Foster who did not participate.
• The IM drama project participants had 54% of students at a moderate or strong level of command, with 14% of those reaching strong command.
• The control group had 30% of students at a moderate level of command, with none reaching a level of strong command.