After a 20 year educational program of touring a rich variety of plays that were all over the cultural map, in 1996 Victory Gardens redesigned its outreach programming after discovering these alarming facts:
- 85% of Chicago Public Schools have limited arts and music programming
- Drama programs are virtually non-existent
- Students are not meeting the mandated State Arts Goals.
Along with these disturbing discoveries came the encouraging information that school reform had opened up opportunities for an integrated curriculum, which would allow artists to come into the schools to aid teachers in reaching their students using alternative methods. To that end, Victory Gardens developed model drama/theater units with Lincoln Park High School as part of the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) program, which led to the units we offer today. Since that time, Victory Gardens has exposed over 100 teachers and more than 8000 students to its arts integration curriculum. The program is designed to help students achieve mandated learning goals in drama while fulfilling their academic goals in the classroom. Countless studies have shown that when students are exposed to arts in education, their school work improves across the board.
In 1996, the YouthARTS Development project, in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, among others, reported that arts education “has a measurable impact on youth at risk in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance among those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programs targeted toward delinquency prevention.”
James S. Catterall, of the UCLA Imagination Project, wrote in another study that arts education “makes a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child and helps level the “learning field” across socio-economic boundaries.” It has also been proven that young people participating in the arts are:
- 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
- 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
- 4 times more likely to participate in a math or science fair
- 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
- 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or a poem
And that young artists, as compared to their peers, are likely to:
- Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently
- Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently
- Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
To date, the response has been overwhelmingly positive from both teachers and students, which encourages us here at the theater to do our best to get more people involved. Our program continues to grow every year, and we are confident that this year will be no exception. Our success is due largely to the type of program we offer. We integrate the arts by combining performing or visual arts into the core curriculum being taught in the classroom.
Professional performers and craftsmen and women work in tandem with teachers to enrich the learning experience. We are constantly adapting and upgrading the program to provide the richest experience for everyone involved. This year we are extremely excited to offer several new drama units in the hopes that every teacher can find something that will work in their classroom, and give students an experience they will never forget.
*Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community based Youth Organizations, Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1999