Perry-Mansfield in the Schools Initiative holds final performance of year with Soroco |

Perry-Mansfield in the Schools Initiative holds final performance of year with Soroco

Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that will fund its new Perry-Mansfield in the Community initiative, a collaboration effort with South Routt schools that will bring Perry-Mansfield faculty to co-teach at area campuses, integrating dance, theater and musical theater as part of the core curriculum.

— Over the course of the 2016-17 school year, Hayden and Soroco K-12 students have discovered a new opportunity to grow creativity in the classroom, and last Thursday, they put their newfound skills to the test at a theater performance at Soroco High School.

"These kids are incredibly passionate about their way of life," said Dee Covington, education director for Curious Theatre in Denver and a Perry-Mansfield alumnus and former faculty member. "That was the heart of a few of the pieces we created. It got them talking about what matters most to them. In that way, it was lovely to see them have an opportunity to express their culture and to be so fiercely proud of who they are."

For the past two weeks, Covington has worked with the students three times a week to create a five- to seven-minute piece for the performance. Through monologue and improv exercises, they created a range of pieces from a diversity line dance to Alan Jackson's "Where I Come From," to monologues in response to Joseph Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness.”

"This allowed the students to voice their own thoughts and creative material in a different way," Covington said. "It's a big deal to get out in front of people. They were a bit nervous but they succeeded. I think people didn't think they would do anything like that."

Covington is the last of six faculty members and alumni who have taught in the Hayden and Soroco Schools as part of the first year of the Perry-Mansfield in the Schools Initiative, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Nancy Engelken, executive director of Perry-Mansfield, said in total, the Perry-Mansfield faculty has worked with close to 500 students in the Hayden elementary, middle and high schools and the Soroco middle and high schools over one- to three-week time periods.

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The faculty have taught in English, social studies, science, P.E. and drama classes to integrate theatre and dance into the core curriculum to enhance student understanding of key concepts, excitement for learning, self-confidence and creative expression.

"I feel students’ unique talents were accentuated and that authentic learning transpired," said Lara Jackson, Soroco High School English teacher. "I also like to expose students to the arts because many have never attended a professional performance, and now, they have a relationship with Perry-Mansfield."

Kendra DeMicco, Hayden middle and high school English teacher and drama teacher, said she learned as much as the students did from this initiative. Already she has started to incorporate methods, games and creative performing arts challenges into her lessons.

"I think this is invaluable — incorporation of the arts into classroom content engages students academically and creatively," DeMicco said. "It has the ability to bring a vitality to the lesson in a way that is multifaceted and easily accessible to students."