Federal Way students take the stage for summer learning

First-ever Scholars on Stage program explores performing arts to strengthen literacy.

Lights, camera, learning!

The Federal Way Public School district explored the opportunity to strengthen literacy through performing arts with the district’s first-ever Scholars on Stage summer program.

The program, intended for incoming first through fifth graders, allowed students to take part in a summer arts program focused on choir, music, theatre and more.

Students spent several weeks preparing for The Granny Awards production, a fairy tale-themed musical with chorus and solo performances.

Tyler Phan, a fifth grader, earned the singing solo role of Jack in the Granny Awards musical. For him, Scholars on Stage was an extension of his favorite subject.

“I love the program,” he said, beaming. “I just love to be with friends I made there and just getting more musical education … One of my favorite things about school is music.”

In addition to learning songs and memorizing choreography, students learned about character development, scenery and backdrops, script writing, costume design and more.

Weekly visits with arts professionals and field trip tours of arts venues helped make learning memorable and fun for the students.

Duncan Frost from Foundry10 engaged students of all ages with drama games and Sabian Pleasant from Tacoma Arts Live stopped by one day to show the kids dancing instructions.

On a weekly basis, members of the Seattle Opera “Opera Time” program taught students new vocabulary words, read and sang with first and second-graders. Opera Time is a program that is designed to be aligned with English language arts curriculum, said Courtney Clark, school programs manager for the Seattle Opera.

Kids learn that musicals, movies, operas and plays all have a foundation of reading and writing, Clark said.

“You cannot have this art form without reading,” she said. “It’s storytelling at its best. It provides the opportunity for the child to not only get a really good story, but to understand how great the imagination is and how important creativity is to this art form.”

The program has been running for more than four years and has reached more than 68 schools from Wenatchee to King County.

In addition to program visitors, students had the opportunity to tour various venues related to performing arts in general, the district stated.

Field trip sites included the Federal Way Library, where students learned how to use online resources, checked out fairy tale books, and many students signed up for library cards during the visit; The Museum of Glass in Tacoma, where students watched demonstrations of glass making in the hot shop, and also created puppets in connection with the Raven and the Box of Daylight exhibit.

A highlight for many students mentioned was the trip to the recently renovated Pantages Theater in Tacoma, learning about proper audience etiquette, the history of the theater, and students also had the opportunity to perform in groups on stage for their peers.

To prepare for their musical premiere, the students performed for the Village Green Retirement Home community.

Fifth-grader Haley Aguilar, who plays Snow White in the Granny Awards, said she has always wanted to sing in front of her school and was excited for the opportunity to sing for a larger crowd.

“I’ve never found my actual passion so I was like ‘I’m going to try out this new thing,’” she said. “As soon as I got there, I heard there was singing. Then I was like I finally found my passion, what I actually like doing.”

While there is summer school each year, the focus expanded primarily to the STEM field for enrichment programs and Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell said she listened to the community members inquiring about how the district supports arts education.

“Every year I’m thinking to myself, how we can expand what we’re doing beyond just academics?” Campbell said.

By brainstorming possibilities to include dramatic arts, the Scholars on Stage program came to life.

In some ways, it was an extension of the Scholar Art in the City, she said, in promoting the hard work and creativity of Federal Way students for the community to see.

Campbell proudly applauded the students after the program’s Village Green performance on July 23.

“I loved it,” she said. “I also loved it for our community … to think about how important it is for them to see what talent we have in our district, but also [for us] to give back to our community. I think there’s just something powerful about that, too.”

For more information

FWPS recommends parents who are interested in having their child participate in summer learning programs to contact their school to learn more about available opportunities.

More information about the Seattle Opera and additional education programs can be found at seattleopera.org.


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Students meet the audience members after their Village green performance. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Students meet the audience members after their Village green performance. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Scholars on Stage. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Scholars on Stage. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

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