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Stages of Wonder

Sun Valley Center for the Arts

Stages of Wonder held week long residencies at four elementary schools- Hailey, Alturas, Hemingway and Bellevue- and expanded a pilot residency at Syringa Mountain School, an independent free public charter school. Our teaching artists taught a total of 89 classes, working with over 1400 students. This program was selected because it was created by Company of Fools to address the absence of an ongoing theatre experience in the Blaine County elementary schools.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

what happens when theatre artists use their imaginations while engaging in creative exploration and inquiry

Through Stages of Wonder theatre games and exercises students created roles, imagined worlds and improvised stories through their work. They also used individual expression, observational skills and collaborative team work to imagine ideas for the environment and characters in their theatre work. The safe creative environment allowed for the students to identify ways in which gestures and movements are used to create or tell a story.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

During the program teaching artists engage students in conversation about the characteristics of an artist. Each student is placed in the role of “artist” and “clay”, encouraging them to embody the characteristics of an artist and understanding others perspectives. One of my favorite moments of the program is when the students create a group sculpture. The students are engaged as both artists and audience during this exercise. In order for it to be successful they have to imagine a world together and independently. Students are given a phrase, such as “water park,” and then as each student is tapped, they are challenged to freeze in a gesture that to them represents “water park.” Because it is a group sculpture, they have to individually freeze, yet be connected to the person that created something prior. At the end the entire group is frozen in a wild, twisting and turning, multi-level sculpture that captured the essence of a crowd-pleasing amusement park.

Impact

Stages of Wonder impacts a large percentage of the elementary students enrolled in our public schools. For the majority of these students the program builds on the work that the students created the year prior. This program is an annual event for these students and it makes a lasting impact on their collective an individual creative expression. The program this spring marked its 22nd year. One of my favorite moments is hearing the feedback from the teachers. One teacher writes, “In my classes, I strive to create a safe space where students can feel confident to step out of their comfort zone and try different things. I love that Stages of Wonder reinforces that same philosophy. Each year I am amazed by watching some of my most timid students thrive and shine while participating in these activities.”

Reflection

The program has a long history as a successful part of the theater curriculum in Blaine County School District elementary schools. As with any program, we are continually evaluating and looking for ways to strengthen our impact. We believe increasing the amount of time we spend with students might have greater impact. One idea we are currently exploring is focusing on certain grades for longer periods of time. As this is a partnership with the schools, we are currently working with administrators and teachers to determine the best option. We are currently exploring focusing on 4th & 5th grade students at each of the schools and working with those students for more sessions in order to have a greater impact on those students.

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