Teachers can utilize many resources to help students learn and grow, such as music, books, lectures, field trips, videos, labs, and much more. One special method two teachers at Rolling Hills Elementary School (RHES) found to be quite helpful in educating students on important historical figures: theater.

Mrs. Christiansen and Mrs. Gorman, two teachers at RHES, were able to bring members of the  First Stage Theatre cast to the school interact with third graders by using $700 in grants from Mukwonago Education Foundation. First Stage Theatre performs children’s plays regularly in Milwaukee, such as Robin Hood, Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook, and Animal Farm.

“We were able to bring the community into our classroom instead of going out [and attending plays in Milwaukee],” said Christiansen.

The money created a program called “Heroes of Yesterday and Today,” in which students learn about key events in histories and historical figures through acting with some First Stage Theatre members. The students put on mini skits with scripts, practiced roleplaying skills, and developed improv techniques, using the First Stage Theatre members as mentors. The third graders learned about Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, Ruby Bridges, and many more influential men and women who changed history.

The main purpose of bringing First Stage to RHES is to bring literacy to life for the students. The third graders have responded positively and enthusiastically to the program as well. Their interest in reading biographies has continued to grow, and the active participation in the skits demonstrates that the students are enjoying learning about history in a creative manner.

The First Stage Theatre is expensive to bring to local schools, as the $700 grant paid for only two visits in March of 2016. Gorman and Christiansen admitted that without the Mukwonago Education Foundation’s generosity, it would be difficult to pursue this opportunity without asking parents for money.  

Both Gorman and Christiansen encourage teachers to find innovative and out-of-the-box ways of conveying new information to students.

“First Stage offers a lot more than plays. It’s not just about going and seeing a play,” Gorman explained. “Teachers should look into programs and guests and see if there are additional ways to utilize them [to teach students].”