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The drama program at School District 65 has been expanded to include four additional grade levels, kindergarten through third grades. The program at the K-3 grade levels was eliminated in the spring of 2002, as part of a deficit reduction plan. With the resurrection of the program at those grades, drama will now be offered at all K-8 grade levels.
The District initially planned to expand drama this year to just the third grade. As part of the contract negotiations with the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union), though, drama has been added to grades K-3, requiring the addition of 5.6 staff.
In kindergarten through fifth grade, students will receive 47 minutes of drama each week as part of the Fine Arts program that also includes art, music and library.
Betsy Quinn, drama department coordinator, said two Harvard University studies have concluded that students taking a drama course “showed significant gains in empathy scores,” and are “better able to tolerate ambiguity, explore new realms of possibility, express their own thoughts and feelings and understand the perspectives of others.”
In teaching drama at the K-5 levels, teachers use “story dramatization,” and “process drama.” A central tenet of the drama department is a recognition that “Creative Drama is both a theatrical art form and a powerful tool for developing effective communication skills, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, positive self-image, social awareness, empathy, values, understanding narrative and the art of theatre,” said Ms. Quinn in a memo provided to the Board.
School Board members were pleased with the addition of drama to the K-3 grade levels and were highly complimentary of the program.
Gloria Bond Clunie, an award-winning playwright and a drama teacher at Chute Middle School, said District 65’s drama program is “the longest thriving drama program in the United States.