When schools bring resident artists from Dallas Children’s Theater into their classrooms, wonderful learning experiences can happen. Using our successful multisensory approach to learning, our artists work with students and teachers to bring classroom curriculum to life. And we know that lessons learned in a creative, fun environment can last a lifetime.
One special example is DCT’s 14-year partnership with the Notre Dame School, where their mission is to provide a quality education to persons with mental disabilities and to facilitate their integration into society. DCT resident artists work with the teachers and students in an eight week residency. The project entails exploring a relevant theme through the creation of a play, which leads to a performance attended by the entire school.
Theresa Francis, Principal of the Notre Dame School, says the DCT residency “has become a highlight for our students and staff. Notre Dame serves students with developmental disabilities and it is not often that they have the experience of being included in a class like this. The staff at DCT is amazingly creative and so patient with our students. They bring costumes and equipment that enhance the performance and make it the highlight of the spring semester. We hope to continue this partnership many years into the future. The benefits that our students receive are so great and go hand in hand with our motto, ‘no limits, just possibilities’. We are so grateful for the opportunity to continue this wonderful program.”
DCT’s Education Director, Nancy Schaeffer, is very proud of this partnership too. “Notre Dame is celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. We congratulate them for this accomplishment and thank them for making us a part of their history the last 14 years,” she says.
She continues, “Our Teaching Artists really love working with the students at Notre Dame School. The characters that the students choose to portray in the shows are creative and energetic. On the day of the show there is an excitement in the air and we all feel the amazing support from the entire school community. The audience claps along with the music and cheers for their classmates. The beaming smiles on the faces of the student actors is proof positive of the power of theater.”
The long-term relationship with Notre Dame and the growing interest of students with developmental disabilities in our classes have inspired Dallas Children’s Theater to pursue more meaningful offerings for children and families who require adaptive learning. DCT is currently pursuing grant funding to enable us to produce up to six sensory-friendly programs per year and offer specialized classes for these audiences. Sensory-friendly programming means that the show is presented with adjustments that enable children with autism on spectrum and other developmental disabilities to better enjoy the presentation. These include raising the house lights, perhaps signaling when a loud noise is imminent or similar. We want to thank Theresa and others who believe DCT is a safe place for families and therefore up to the challenge of providing these important opportunities so that ALL children can benefit from the magic of theater.