Helping children cross cultural boundaries in the borderlands: Arts program at Freese Elementary in San Diego creates cultural bridge
Brouillette, L., & Jennings, L. (2010). Helping children cross cultural boundaries in the borderlands: Arts program at Freese Elementary in San Diego creates cultural bridge. Journal for Learning Through the Arts, 6(1).
In 2001-2002, Freese Elementary, an inner-city elementary program in the U.S.-Mexico Borderland comprised primarily of English Language Learners (ELL), began an arts magnet program in which students receive art instruction from local teaching artists in the areas of dance, music, theater/puppetry, and visual art, on a rotating basis. Researchers collected data from in-depth interviews with teachers, teaching artists and administrators, and through classroom observations of teaching artist lessons to assess the ways in which and the degree to which the puppetry curriculum delivered to kindergarten through second-grade students impacted student language development and social-emotional development. Findings suggest that students benefited academically and developmentally through participation in the puppetry workshop and that overall school culture improved as a result of the arts magnet program.
Teachers reported noticing improvements in students’ reading and expression following their participation in the puppetry program. Specifically, students exhibited confidence in speaking and increasingly complex language use over time as a result of their engagement in language-infused interactions with their peers in the risk-supportive arts environment.
Students identified as needing behavioral and/or academic support were able to take pride in performing successfully as part of the puppet troupe. Teachers reported noticing fewer behavioral problems when students were participating in the arts program.
Students were able to experience and develop multiple perspectives through the puppetry program by putting themselves in dramatic roles. Additionally, students were able to express their own hopes, fears, and abilities through imaginative engagement developed in the puppet lessons.