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From Lisa – Behind the Scenes of ArtsTouch

November 12, 2011

Students in the BUILDING BRIDGES program learn about creative expression through work with masks.

One of my favorite parts of being a Touchstone Ensemble Member is teaching “Building Bridges”, one of our signature ArtsTouch programs.

Okay, background first! Touchstone and the Colonial Academy Intermediate Unit (IU) developed this program roughly ten years ago. It is intended for students struggling in mainstream classes and subsequently placed in partial or emotional support classrooms for any number of reasons – abuse, neglect, mental health issues, drugs, etc. I have been a teaching artist with the “Building Bridges” program for the last four years.

This week, I’ve been energized to meet and get to know the “Bridges” Fall 2011 class. With the group, comprised of high school and middle school students, teachers, teacher aides, an IU representative, and us, the Touchstone teaching artists, we start and end each session with Circle Check-in:

  • Your name
  • One word to describe how you’re feeling
  • A movement and sound to match

Followed by the group “playing it back” – first listening to the individual, then repeating together. For example:

  • Lisa
  • Mischievous
  • Tapping hands together with a slightly evil laugh

Anything goes within these guidelines – the sound and movement can be representational or abstract – however each person wants to communicate what they are feeling at that moment. Afterwards, we all understand what “baggage” (good or bad) everyone is bringing to the session. It’s always fun to see the change that occurs between Check-in and Check-out – tired to energized, bored to interested, unsure to curious, etc. There’s usually someone who ends with “hungry” since they go right from the session to lunch!

The BUILDING BRIDGES class of Fall 2010

In each session, there is a variety of games and exercises to build both theatre and life skills. It’s not difficult to sneak in confidence-building and communication skills when doing theatre exercises. For example, with improv games, a key skill is being a present partner – ready and open to ideas, listening and able to respond clearly and confidently – excellent skills to have on a job interview, or communicating with friends and family.

The change witnessed over the course of the residency is amazing. For some it can be slight – a deeper interest in the arts, perhaps, or better attendance at school. Others are transformed into more confident, expressive versions of themselves. There’s a whole team of people from teachers to family members to social workers helping these students get on the right track. As a Touchstone teaching artist, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to interact and play a part in the moving each young person towards a healthier, more successful path.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 30, 2011 11:59 am

    Aw…Bridges is the best program ever. Tell all those peeps hello for me!

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