In the report, “Learning In and Through the Arts: Curriculum Implications,” (by Judith Burton, Robert Horowitz and Hal Abeles of the Center for Arts Education Research, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, July 1999), the researchers describe the findings of a study of over 2000 public school students in grades 4 through 8, showing a significant relationship between in-school arts programs and creative, cognitive and personal competencies needed for academic success. In schools with high arts availability these competencies were also observed transferring to other subject areas such as science, math and language. In the areas of creative thinking, expression, risk taking and imagination, the high-arts students achieved scores four times those of the low-arts students.
In the January/February 2012 Harvard Education Letter, researchers documented improvements in Using Theater to Teach Social Skills. “For the first time that summer-and it was a tough summer-all of the kids who had been aggressive with each other got along,” Lerner recalls. “In the context of the theater games, they began using some socially appropriate skills.” The letter reports, that the social skills included the little niceties often taken for granted in most human interactions, like saying hello, answering questions, and looking people in the eye. The students ultimately wrote a play and performed it for their parents at the end of the session.
In 2005, Irene Horowitz, previous Director of Education for Gulfshore Playhouse, conducted an assessment of educational institutions in Collier and Lee counties with the goal of determining what type of theatre education was missing from the current curriculum and how the Playhouse could collaborate with schools to create appropriate programs and workshops. Research has shown that learning and social attitudes improve measurably as a result of involvement in performing arts activities.
Approximately 130 Educational Outreach packets were distributed. In Collier County there was significant interest in program offerings such as Staff Development for credit, Social Studies teachers and students collaborating in the writing of historical monologues, bringing movement workshops into Physical Education and Science classes, and Shakespeare programs into the English classes.
In 2006, she partnered with elementary, middle and high-school educators throughout Lee and Collier counties to explore ways to integrate the arts directly into the learning process in just such a manner as described in the two preceding research findings. In 2007, our workshops were implemented into the schools. In 2008 The Gulfshore Playhouse Theatre Education Project’s ThinkTheatre division was chosen to partner with an elementary school in a prestigious National Education Association Foundation grant award. Since then ART SMART in-school workshop residencies such as Prop It Before You Pitch It, Literature, Language Arts, Creative Writing, and Drama, Developing The Historical Monologue, and Theatre Games/Improvisation have been teaching content curriculum during the school day to students of all ages spanning E.L.L. through the Gifted & Talented.
As educational institutions have been forced over the past 30 years to make difficult choices in curriculum, the result has been the loss of the arts as an educational tool. With the help of local support, national and regional funders and private benefactors, Gulfshore Playhouse’s ThinkTheatre programs deliver theatre arts curriculum to help diversify and expand educational tools available to teachers and schools.