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Grow up Great

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Featured photo by Alphonso Whitfield
By Kristen Buckley, Naserian Foundation Early Childhood Program Manager at the Alliance Theatre
Imagine you’re a four year old. You’re learning to negotiate the complicated social rules of school, how to move around in your rapidly growing body, and how to fit all of your young-person excitement for learning about the world into your new Pre-K classroom.
This morning you’re happily squished shoulder to shoulder in a circle around the carpet with your friends, because today your Alliance Theatre Institute teaching artist is here for her weekly visit to your classroom. You love this day because you get to listen to her tell you a story and she’ll invite you to use your body, voice and imagination to act it out. You get to ask questions, give ideas, sing and play as a group, and you feel excited to connect the story to your experiences outside of the classroom.
Now imagine you’re a teacher. You love coming to work every day to teach 22 four year olds, but sometimes you feel like they’re learning faster than you can keep up. Their growing brains, high motivation to learn and interest in solving big problems lead to ever expanding questions that you try to capture.
You love this morning too, because your Alliance Theatre teaching artist is here and she’s got your back. She brings new strategies into your classroom that make your job easier and more fun, she tells stories using objects, sings new songs, teaches you chants, and demonstrates how big body movements can help access a variety of learning styles in one large group activity. Together, you design and implement lessons that incorporate intentional questions and support your science curriculum for the semester. You’re team teaching, and the best part is that once she leaves at the end of the semester you have a new set of skills that you can use and expand upon year after year.
This magical place is a Georgia Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts classroom where an Alliance Theatre Institute teaching artist delivers job-embedded, arts integrated professional learning for early childhood educators in a semester long residency. These residencies provoke creative learning for young children and creative teaching for their teachers. At the Alliance Theatre, we know from our nationally recognized research through the federal Department of Education that the children in a Georgia Wolf Trap classroom will have a better grasp on oral and written language skills (an increased use of vocabulary, more emotion words, more dialogue) than their peers who do not experience Georgia Wolf Trap.
As part of a partnership between the Alliance Theatre and Fernbank Museum of Natural History, PNC Bank has funded science focused Grow Up Great Georgia Wolf Trap residencies where students and teachers explore questions like “what makes a shadow” and “how does a seed become a plant” through the use of dramatic storytelling. The students, teachers, parents and administrators who participate in these residencies in Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers and Atlanta Public Schools tell us year after year that they are excited to be a part of such a dynamic classroom experience.
This week, the National Association for Young Children’s Week of the Young Child, we invite you to join PNC in their enthusiastic support of organizations that promote access to high quality early childhood experiences. Consider sharing your time, talent or resources to advocate for rich artistic explorations for all young children.

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