Global Arts and Cultural Enrichment for School-Aged Kids

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 11.21.13 AMWith so much emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in education, have you ever wondered if your kids are getting exposure to the arts? If their school partners with Flushing Town Hall, the answer is “yes”.

Gabrielle M. Hamilton is the Director of Education and Public Programs for Flushing Council on Culture & the Arts, at Flushing Town Hall. Her job is to provide the most diverse, engaging and educational programming for students. These programs weave the arts into core subject areas, and introduce elementary, middle and high school students to high-quality music, theater, dance and puppetry groups from around the world. Flushing Town Hall is known for bringing global arts to global kids

This season, there’s an exciting new season of programming at Flushing Town Hall for visiting school groups.

What are some highlights of this season’s lineup?

Our primary mission is to provide a broad array of quality educational programs and initiatives that promote the arts and creative learning in Queens. Our borough’s diversity is reflected in this season’s diverse programming. We’re presenting Native American music and dance, hip-hop, Mexican folk music fused with Latin jazz and pop, a performance that explores the cultural crossroads from Ireland and Africa, puppetry from Taiwan, and from Peru, and an award-winning theater troupe from Canada.

Why is it important to expose school-aged kids to the arts?IMG_8377

Study after study demonstrates that the arts have the ability to profoundly impact student learning and enrich lives. Exposure to the arts encourages exploration, a tool which is especially vital in our global community with many young immigrants and English Language Learners. The arts can be a vehicle for a deeper understanding of texts—be it a story, music, dance or art work– while providing students with opportunities for analysis, reflection, observation, and creative expression.

What are the benefits to an early introduction to cultural diversity through the arts?

A multicultural curriculum allows students to reflect upon our cultural similarities while broadening their perspective of the world. At Flushing Town Hall, we often use world music and dance to introduce students to our global community. In addition, young immigrant students build pride and self-esteem as they see the finest artists from their own community on our stage. This season, we will also explore our community’s diversity with Green Thumb Theatre’s Celestial Being. In this production, we see the world through the eyes of an autistic girl, her struggles and triumphs in making friends. This show builds an awareness of autism, and highlights making healthy relationships with friends and family. Students in grades 3-7 are encouraged to see this production.

So how young is too young? Do Flushing Town Hall’s programs target a range of grade levels?

While most of our programming is for five year olds and up, we have recently started to curate programming for children five and under. For example, this season, we have a puppetry performance for very young children presented by The Treehouse Shakers, called Hatched. This piece invites our very young audience to playIMG_8442 with the baby farm animal puppets in a “no-shush” atmosphere. It’s a wonderful introduction to theater.

Before students attend a performance do they learn anything about what they are going to see?

Yes. We prepare study guides for classroom teachers to use in their lesson plans prior to a school performance. For example, if it’s a musical performance, the materials might include geographical information, facts about instruments they might see, and activities for hands-on learning. These content rich guides invigorate student’s understanding and analysis while they make creative connections to other art forms and curriculum.

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