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Teens explore theater at CalArts

English Language Development students participate in 10-week project

Posted: January 12, 2009 8:30 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2009 1:00 p.m.

Arroyo Seco Jr. High students tour the Cal Arts campus, learning problem-solving skills, improv techniques, self-confidence, self-awareness, team collaboration and a respect for diverse cultures and languages.

This is the fourth year of the CalArts and Arroyo Seco Jr. High School Theater Games and Improvisation Project where both schools are given the opportunity to learn from one another through theater games and improv techniques.

CalArts masters-level theater students and Juliet Fine's English Language Development class explore the arts, use their imaginations, problem-solving skills and physicalities to work through improvisation exercises.

English students practice their oral language skills and become aware of their bodies and minds as they are expected to create a fictitious solution to real-world problems and scenarios.

Before the project began, students were quiet and shy and would never volunteer to present projects orally in class.

But, over the 10-week project, there was physical evidence produced that showed an overall improvement in self-confidence, self-awareness, team collaboration, speaking and listening skills, and a respect for diverse cultures and languages.

After the 10 weeks, some Cal Arts students were inspired to become teachers and an Arroyo Seco student attained goals and desires to become life-long learner of the arts.

Each year this project takes place with every new group of students from CalArts and Arroyo Seco, the collaboration produces invaluable outcomes and each student is given a gift of self-confidence or inspired to learn, the greatest gift of all.

On Dec. 5, in culmination of the 10-week project, Arroyo Seco students performed their new theater skills on stage in front of the entire Cal Arts theater department, which included students, faculty and parents.

This year was unique in that the collaboration continued at Arroyo Seco where Adriana Berge's journalism students attended the performance and field trip to document the event.

This type of experiential learning is the most effective learning that can take place for all students.

Journalism students were given a special tour of CalArts. Their tour focused on the aspects of the school that specialize in writing and photography.

Juliet Fine's ELD students were given a tour of the school that focused on theater, which included the set and costume design, lighting and stage production.

Many students never knew CalArts existed before this tour and were inspired by the arts and the diverse student population.

After the tour, students ate in the CalArts cafeteria and were given the experience of a "real life" college student.

At the end of the tour, the ELD students illuminated the stage and after two and a half months of practice and learning, their performance broke the audience into applause and great laughter.

To cap it off, journalism students were invited on stage with teachers, CalArts college mentors and faculty to participate in one giant improvisation game called "Peanut Butter and Jelly" lead by Jenna Pukjera, Arroyo Seco student, and Evan Cleaver, CalArts college mentor.

The students left with a sense of accomplishment and pride working together and sharing in the moment on stage.

Rhondi Durand, principal of Arroyo Seco, came out to support the event and was blown away by the talent and final product produced by the junior high school students.

She can't wait until next year's performance.

Juliet Fine is a teacher at Arroyo Seco Junior High School.


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