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Imagination And Education

Justin Kiska

(5/2017) Once upon a time, children and teens did not want to spend all of their time playing games on their smart phones and tablets. They did not sit in front of a computer screen or television for hours on end. They would come home from school, throw their backpacks in the door and meet up with their friends to play. Do you remember what that was like? Playing with your friends? Sometimes it would be cops and robbers, other times a space adventure, or a princess tea party. Not into the "role playing" kind of things? OK, then what about playing with your G.I. Joes or Barbies or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

However you and your friends entertained yourselves before the "Age of the i-Phone," they all had one thing in common . . . Imagination. For just a little while, you became that police officer trying to catch your next door neighbor who was one of the most notorious bank robbers around. Those Barbies all came to life and lived out whatever story you could think of.

Now, itís about hit points and collecting the most coins or how many pieces of candy one can crush. Imagination is in danger.

Luckily, there is a place where imagination still thrives and is always encouraged. At the theatre.

Live theatre is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, but few ever really understand its importance in education.

Once upon a time, schools used to take students on field trips to see live stage shows. There are some schools that still do, and they should be congratulated and thanked. Sadly though, most schools have ended these types of outings, not realizing the sort of education with which they are depriving their students.

What kind of education can a child receive from seeing a live stage show? It all depends on who you ask.

Some will say children learn valuable social skills like what itís like to be in a crowd out in public and how to behave. Others say seeing a live stage show broadens a childís view of the world, far beyond a television screen. When anyone, adult or child, is sitting in an audience, in the same room with the actors Ė only feet away, they are right there with them in whatever world has been created on that stage. They are a part of something; they are transported to another place and another time. Imagination reigns. Anything is possible.

What about the facts? How can we know what sort of impact theatre has on a childís education? We turn to the experts who have studied this very issue, specifically a study by a team led by Professor Jay P. Greene. Through their research, they found children who attend a live stage production are at an advantage for learning academic content; they have increased tolerance for having been exposed to a broader, more diverse world; and have an improved ability to recognize what other people are thinking and feeling.

If those are the results of a child who simply saw a stage show, imagine what they would be like if that child was in a stage show. The good news is, you donít have to imagine, there is firsthand knowledge of this. It has been shown time and time again that children involved in theatre programs have less behavioral problems in school, tend to have better grades, are more social, and more confident in themselves.

Live theatre is a good thing. Thereís a reason it has survived throughout the ages. Not only can it take people away and out of their lives for a few hours, forgetting any stress and strain, but it can also teach. It can certainly teach far more than any video game.

Read other articles by Justin Kiska