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THE EDUCATOR ADVISORY BOARD: Creating Our Study Guides

Educator Advisory Board members spend summers creating our study guides

If you were to ask the teachers in our Educator Advisory Board, “What did you do over summer break?”, they’d report that they’d spent significant time volunteering for Park Square Theatre’s education program. More specifically, they’d tell you that they were busy creating the study guides for the upcoming season’s student matinee plays. Because these study guides are actually produced by educators experienced in teaching 7th to 12th graders, they are mindfully designed to not just be grade-appropriate for our targeted audiences, but dynamically usable, as well. While our materials are ready for use, they can also be specifically adapted for particular class usage (we can provide a PDF file for you to modify); our materials are additionally designed with different types of learners in mind (e.g., visual, text-oriented, physical, etc.).

Last summer, I got to sit in on a few study guide creation sessions for an insider’s view on how it gets done. (I specifically observed sessions for the Flower Drum Song and Macbeth study guides.) A separate committee was created for each play that needed a study guide, and someone in each committee served as Editor (or Co-Editors). Education Director Mary Finnerty held an Editor’s training session to cover editor responsibilities, challenges of editing and style sheet expectations before the committees met.

The committee meetings consisted of three two-hour meetings per play to match the three steps in the process:

Meeting 1 – Discuss the play and what contents the teacher will need to prepare their students and assign who will write each article or activity.

Meeting 2 – Look at drafts of the materials and assess structure, approach and audience.

Meeting 3 – Proofread articles for grammatical correctness, parallel structure, consistent formatting and following of the style sheet.

As you can see, much of the volunteers’ tasks–namely, research and writing–were independently completed before being reviewed by their group as a whole.

When asked what inspired them to do this work, committee members provided a variety of reasons:

“After bringing students to a play, I was impressed by the Park Square Theatre guides. They were better than any I’d seen from other theatres. Other guides are often designed for college students or theatre aficionados instead of for students’ first exposure to theatre.”

Educator Advisory Board members in a meeting to look at study guide drafts.

“I believe in Park Square Theatre’s Education Program. It’s extremely strong. I work for the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C., consulting on educational materials and leading teacher workshops nationwide. I am very passionate about Shakespeare.”

“I feel like being in this group and going through drafting and peer evaluations of lesson plans and the study guide makes me a better teacher. I also use a lot of ideas that come out of our meetings in the classroom.”

“This is interesting work that encourages me to look at plays more deeply, and I also benefit from the other advisory board members who bring their ideas for working with students.”

“I’ve always loved theatre. I think that theatre is an interdisciplinary art form, and I love to teach in an interdisciplinary way. Theatre talks about everything.”

“I’m not able to get involved in theatre. I don’t have a background in it. But I know how to create curriculum. This is a way to get involved.”

Sacrificing part of their summers to create study guides for classroom use reflects the deep commitment that the Educator Advisory Board has for theatre, their profession and the young people ultimately impacted by their work. In essence, it’s a generous gift of love that gets passed forward many times over. Thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.

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NOTE: A study guide can be accessed by selecting a particular play at http://parksquaretheatre.org/education/education-matinees-2017-18/.

 

(To learn more about the Educator Advisory Board, also read the past post “A HISTORY OF OUR EDUCATOR ADVISORY BOARD: Teachers Helping Teachers.”)

A HISTORY OF OUR EDUCATOR ADVISORY BOARD: Teachers Helping Teachers

At the backbone of Park Square Theatre’s robust Education Program is the Educator Advisory Board. This working board is comprised of secondary educators whose passion for theatre compels them to volunteer their personal time to ensure that our program serves our young patrons well.

Having been a teacher herself, Education Director Mary Finnerty did not hesitate to ask for help from teachers when she started Park Square’s Education Program in 1994. She knew that the program’s effectiveness relied on keeping a pulse on what was happening in classrooms. A strong program had to offer relevant and engaging programming with usable supporting materials. Who better to ask for input than teachers themselves? Hence, the Educator Advisory Board was formed in December 1994 and consisted of four members. Together, they created the study guide for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the only production for students that season.

By the following year, membership had grown to ten teachers who gave practical advice on how best to handle ticket disbursement, disruptive students and much more. They met once a month and wrote the study guide for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible as well as discussed future programming.

In 1997, the now 14-member advisory board created a new event called “Teacher’s Night Out.” It was a fun way to introduce the Education Program to teachers with an insider’s look at the season’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. One hundred teachers attended the first “Teacher’s Night Out” which remains an annual event, grown in popularity to require a guest wait list. The special evening begins with a complimentary glass of wine before “An Insider’s Look at Park Square Theatres’ Education Program: A Teacher’s Take on the Season,” which is followed by Build a Moment where teachers see how a scene from a play evolves from page to stage. A delicious catered dinner is then served before teachers see the play’s full performance.

With ever more teachers volunteering to help promote and support the Education Program, it experienced huge growth in 1998, attracting about 7,200 students to see Of Mice and Men with 3,600 to take part in its Immersion Days, consisting of workshops and demonstrations to further deepen students’ learning experience at Park Square.

It was time to consider how to expand student matinee offerings beyond one show per season, which Park Square Theatre started doing in 1999 with The Miracle Worker, Taking Sides and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). About 16,000 students participated in the Education Program that year.

And, as the saying goes, “The rest is history!” Currently, over 30,000 students visit Park Square Theatre each year to participate in our award-winning education program. The Educator Advisory Board continues to advise Mary on programming, scheduling, logistics, discipline policies and workshop topics and artists as well as produce our study guides and organize education events. Park Square Theatre is so grateful for its hard work and dedication. Thank you for your invaluable support!

 

(Look out for the upcoming post “THE EDUCATOR ADVISORY BOARD: Creating Our Study Guides”)

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Current Educator Advisory Board Members:

Marcia Aubineau, University of St. Thomas, retired; Liz Erickson, Rosemount High School; Theodore Fabel, South High School; Craig Farmer, Perpich Center for Arts Education; Amy Hewett-Olatunde, LEAP High Schools; Cheryl Hornstein, Freelance Theatre and Music Educator; Alexandra Howes, Twin Cities Academy; Dr. Virginia McFerran, Perpich Center for Arts Education; Kristin Nelson, Brooklyn Center High School; Mari O’Meara, Eden Prairie High School; Jennifer Parker, Falcon Ridge Middle School; Maggie Quam, Hmong College Prep Academy; Kate Schilling, Mound Westonka High School; Jack Schlukebier, Central High School, retired; Tanya Sponholz, Prescott High School; Jill Tammen, Hudson High School, retired; Craig Zimanske, Forest Lake Area High School

 

NOTE: If you are interested in joining, please contact Mary Finnerty at 651.767.8494 or finnerty@parksquaretheatre.org.

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