By Terra Brantley for Wane.com
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Some Allen County classrooms are being temporarily transformed into mini opera houses all for the sake of education. “It feels like a concert,” said Southwick Elementary first grader Kyleizh Gaulden. “My favorite part is singing and dancing and learning about different new words.”
Twice a week during the school year Heartland Sings takes opera to the classrooms of local first graders in its Arts Integrated Residency Program. Instructors help students develop language arts skills through interactive lessons. “We actually start in the first half of the year,” said Stephanie Carlson, Director of Development and Education at Heartland Sings. “We teach lessons and actually work with their language acquisition and their literacy to build those skills to give them the tools to create the opera by the second half of the year. So not only are they learning language arts but they’re exposed to a genre of the arts that they would never be able to be exposed to at any other time.”
“I like this class because they give us more expression and they give us more things to learn,” said Gaulden. With the help of Arts Integrated instructors the students come up with the story concept and the characters.
“It increases their writing,” said first grade teacher Sarah Gerig. “They’re using some of the words they sing in the opera in their writing and they don’t realize that they’re learning that. They have just created a story and that is so important because it takes the stress off of learning. It makes it fun for them.”
“Last year we had three classes and this year we’re able to expand to have four classes,” said Southwick Elementary School Principal Diamond Robinson. “It’s great to see how far the kids grow through the school year.”
Each class performs its own opera at the end of the school year. The students conceptualize the story from start to finish. They create the setting, the characters, the plot and determine the lesson learned. “Last year we were able to have parents night where parents came to see the opera. Some were in tears. They were impressed. We are fortunate to have Heartland Sings at Southwick.”
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