Last year we added an Acting Studio Theatre Program for the students at ESCHS, a NYC 6-12 public school. Students receive a professional level theater program which culminates in a full performance. We have embarked on a journey in the theatre arts which includes an exploration of theatre, literature, script analysis and ensemble creation. As the students develop as actors they must employ critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, creativity, imagination and commitment. This season the youth of the InFlight Company will perform 2 fully supported theatre productions at an Off-Broadway theatre venue.
From The Teaching Artist’s Blog: Kindergarteners: Workers on the Railroad!
Since then, I have been collaborating with teachers to bring theatre arts into the classroom as a way to explore social studies! In Kindergarten this year we are doing a study on trains, railroads and transportation. In drama, the students play characters and I play characters. We work together to tell a story; going on adventures and solving problems along the way. In this year’s interactive drama, the students are in-workers building the Transcontinental Railroad. On our first day, we went far far back in time…..when the only mass transportation was powered by horses! I played a character of the inventor of the steam locomotive and showed them my new invention. (see the students acting out the inner workings of a steam engine!) We took a ride on the very first steam locomotive in the United States!Then they received a visit from Thomas Durant, the owner of the Union Pacific Railroad company. Thomas and the Kindergarteners decided that a train needed a track to ride on and the Kindergarteners volunteered to build the first ever track all the way across the United States. We looked at a huge map and saw that we would be crossing many different habitats….the Eastern Forests, the Mississippi River, ther Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and deserts of the west. Even so, the Kindergarteners were excited! They talked about how if they all worked together, they would be able to do it! The workers made a list of promises for our work together:
- Work together as a team
- Stay together
- Be nice to each other
- If we don’t agree, we’ll work it out!
- Solve any problem that comes our way. Together!
We packed our equipment and hit the road! The next day the workers met another couple characters….Ida the railroad worker (named after Ida Hewitt, the first female steam locomotive driver) and a prairie dog (puppet!) who left his prairie dog town to have an adventure, got lost, and is searching for his home. They were looking for work, so the Kindergarteners invited them to join the team.
Since then we have done lots of building and singing (songs to help us work). And it’s a good thing that one of our promises was to solve any problem that came our way because we have had a few huge ones!….one of them was called an “infinity problem” by one of the students.
To find out more about the incredible problems the workers have had to solve, ask your child what they did when they got to the Mississippi River and then ask them what happened when they got to the Great Plains! Today, we worked on plans for the Great Plains….and Thursday we will hit the Rockies! A brand new set of problems for the workers to solve!
This curriculum has incorporated a lot of singing and history. Bradley has done a lot of research on old-time train songs and we are learning “The Great Pacific Railway”. He’s been playing mandolin and guitar for us. We will also be learning the legend of John Henry and the song that was written about him. I’ve also done research on railroad work songs from the south and have used them to write some of our work songs that help us keep in time. We have also looked at real spikes used in the railroad and a real railroad hammer!