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The Issue

Several national reports, developed by prominent organizations such as the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development Task Force and the Learning First Alliance, have recognized that “learning is possible only after students’ social, emotional and physical needs have been met. When those needs are met, students are more likely to succeed in school” (CASEL, 2004).

Schools that teach social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies such as self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and decision making have been shown to foster student attachment to school and receptivity to learning. The factors are strongly linked to academic success (Blum, McNeely and Rinehart, 2002; Osterman, 2000). Implemented correctly, SEL can significantly counter the risk factors that give rise to a host of unhealthy behaviors, including substance abuse, violence, bullying, and failure in school. At the same time, SEL can increase the capacity of all students to become “knowledgeable, responsible, caring, productive, nonviolent and contributing members of society” (Zins et al., 2001).

Research also indicates that “in meaningful and sustained learning, the intellect and emotion are inseparable. Brain research, for example, has demonstrated that . . . emotion [drives] attention, learning, memory and other important mental or intellectual activities” (McCombs, 2001). In other words, there can be no separation between emotions and learning, during school hours or at any other time. Theatre is the exploration of human emotions, motivations, and reactions making it uniquely positioned as a tool for social-emotional learning (SEL). Research of young people demonstrates how activities and pedagogy associated with theatre education prove capable of supporting SEL growth through increasing belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. For example, students who are a part of a theatre class or program often feel a sense of belonging because they have shared experiences with other participants (Brym, 2006).

To support the social-emotional well-being of all youth we have developed the following programs:

“Your Voice” – Theatre In School and After School
“Restorative Theatre” – Theatre In Juvenile Justice Centers
“It Starts With Us” – Theatre In Community Centers
“Rehearsal for Reality” – Theatre for Professional Development

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