Art is a universal language. It comes naturally, particularly to youngsters, but a little guidance and encouragement is always welcome.
The Sonoma-based Transcendence Theatre Company has partnered with Dunbar Elementary and Sonoma Valley Unified School District for an innovative 12-week program, named Arts Integrated Curriculum, for the first through fifth grades.
After the outdoor stage at Dunbar School was destroyed in the 2017 fires, Transcendence Theater Company (along with Landmark Winery and the Rotary Club) contributed to the rebuilding of a new outdoor stage for the Glen Ellen school. Soon after, Transcendence expressed to school officials its vision for creating a new theater arts program for the school’s students.
In October, over 120 Dunbar students began the program, which introduced the arts as a universal language. The curriculum and coursework encourage artistic and cultural expression for improving literacy, creative thinking, and self-expression for young students, especially English Language Learners.
“It’s our mission to design and provide educational engagement opportunities so young people can transcend their circumstances and create a more inclusive and empathetic culture,” said Nikko Kimzin, the company’s director of education and community outreach.
Teaching Artists AJ Ackleson and Erika Conaway visit the Dunbar campus three days each week working with students and teachers. The program concludes in Spring 2020 with an original stage production performed by students. An annual presentation of a melodrama, featuring Dunbar fifth graders, has been a school tradition since 1991.
The series of classroom visits includes two professional development days for teachers at Dunbar Elementary School, helping them to elevate their skills in arts integration, equity, and inclusion training.
“We believe that arts education is a right for all students. We are committed to continuing our efforts of providing education engagement opportunities for all the diverse communities that make up Sonoma,” said Kimzin.