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Improv to Improve Academics:

A program designed for the 6th graders of the Miller Middle School in Kingston to incorporate a Greek Mythology curriculum and Improvisational acting techniques to improve "Attention, Retention, Grades and to put some fun in the learning process."

This is my final report and video submission to the Duchess County Arts Council for their academic year 2010/2011 project grant for the Miller Middle school in Kingston, submitted by Ms Kathleen Fancher 6th grade teacher and (Artist) Michael Monasterial of Passing the Torch Through the Arts.

This project started in October 2010 and we had over 100 - 6 graders in our 12 hours of workshops with two professional local actors. The first task was to learn Acting basics, then learn Improvisational acting techniques, they learned the basics of all Theater: conflict, comedy, dramatic structure; then to we weaved the Myths into actable scenarios.

100% of the grant went to paying the artists and when the grant money ran out. Michael Monasterial volunteered 12 hours of his time to the completion of the grant for the sake of the kids, some of the kids never performed or even spoke in front of people before. You can see some of this in the Video. I think the next program should be two to three weeks max. for each program and maybe two per year. One in Spring, based on the lesson plan, and One in the Spring.

I would like to begin this report by saying what and honor it was to work with Ms Fancher, what a bright, savvy and dedicated teacher she is, she taught me so much about working within the Kingston School system. This program was a success on so many levels, and I have tests, comments and video to corroborate my claims.

The students were excited about having us here even from the beginning we had scheduling issues. I believe that with a shorter workshop performance window we could get a better result on test scores based on curriculum based material. Continuity is so important in any arts training program, especially with students with no experience.

The reason we used Improvisational acting was that it is the most engaging. Students had to create their own dialogue and often their own scenarios, in this way they remained fully engaged. Once we have their attention, and we went over the Myths over and over again, introducing complex concepts like the Metaphor of a story. I tried to include material that the students could use throughout their academic career. They not only learned the Greek Myths but the learned to basis for all Mythology.

Over the course of the first semester, we had to reintroduce some acting concepts again and again, that I believe would have been more easily learned with longer session and less time between workshops. Also, it always took time to settle the students down, that was not an issue after 20 minutes, so with longer sessions more actual work can get done and less crowd control. By the end I learned to have students monitoring themselves and that saved a lot of time. The lesson plan was not in line with the workshops, so teachers could not use the time the artists spent enhancing the learning experience, when that really was the whole point. I don’t believe anyone expected to get such good results from the process, but I feel that is we return the artists’ influence can be used in the teachers favor, because now the teachers can see what a powerful tool to engage students.

I would encourage the arts council to bolster more curriculum based arts programs since arts is being slashed Statewide and even traditional school programming is being cut back. If the entire country is panicked about Test Result Based  learning, programs like Improv to Improve Academics could relieve some of the pressure from the teachers by engaging students for maximum retention of material.  
Thank you for the time and wonderful experience the Arts council has made possible for my company and the Students of the 6 grade of Miller school.

Michael Monasteral
Artistic Director
Passing the Torch Through the Arts
"Catch the Fire of Inspiration!"

Hudson Valley “Youth Renewable Energy Expo

What is Project Green Tomorrow?
Creating Cultural Connections and Sustainable Communities.

Project Green Tomorrow is an exciting opportunity for High School students to compete for college scholarships by developing an invention or innovation that reduces the carbon footprint of their school. Interested students will form a team to achieve their scientific goal and will benefit from the experience of collaborating with their peers.   

By using a creative platform, our mission is to bridge the Youth of the Hudson Valley with Green initiatives, specifically focusing on renewable energy in the region.
Ideally, teams of High School students (one team per school) will compete to devise an invention, method or innovation (or upgrade an existing one) to reduce their Highs Schools carbon footprint. The students will receive scholarships (25% of all proceeds). The awards will be judged by and presented by local celebrities and politicians.

The winning team will be featured in a full page ad with all the photos and names of the winning team, a banner and plague to commemorate their victory and finally to have their innovation featured and possibly implemented in their High School, creating a Hall of Fame and lasting victory for these science students.   

How does your company benefit?
Hot PRESS! Be a Pioneer for Innovation

This is the first time the Arts, Youth, Science and Corporate public relations has been so finely meshed into an event that supports so many. Passing the Torch Through the Arts is a New York State recognized 501c3 under the umbrella of the Arts Society of Kingston All the funds for the event will be considered donations to Passing the Torch through the Arts and are therefore a tax write off.

The radio, press, television buzz created by this event, the 1000’s of families, the local towns and the other groups not already plugged into this Green PR wave spreading across America can all be heralded in by your Corporation’s generosity and your name will be featured in every piece of literature and marketing generated by this event and is all free.

Why should your company invest toward the $10,000 start up fee for project Green Tomorrow?
 Join us and embrace Environmental Responsibility!

This event is a first in the Hudson Valley and parallels a nationwide wave of similar projects. We will be proposing this event to many corporate sponsors and believe this will be the hot PR ticket of 2010. A ground floor opportunity for you, the first $10,000 raised will go directly toward the initial mailing, radio, television and print to create the buzz for this event.

The other funds for the venue rental, the live entertainment, the awards and administrative costs will be generated by the vendors, other sponsors seeking the affiliation to the but not willing to commit as many funds, (those packages are $5000, $1000, and $500). Fully realizing what advertising packages cost, Project Green Tomorrow is the most bang for the buck and a way to directly do some good in our Hudson Valley Home.    

Who else benefits from project tomorrow?
Scholarship and programming for Hudson Valley Youth

The winning team selected will receive 25% of the net proceeds as a scholarship to distribute evenly between the participants. The other 75% of the net is donated for programming for At Risk Youth in the Hudson Valley, in that way 100% of all generated funds go directly back to their intended recipients. The high schools who implement the changes that the youth propose reduce their carbon footprint, receive a boost to the general morale of the school, and most importantly make heroes out of the Science and Technology students that are America’s future innovators.

How does this event actually happen?
 It happens with you!

By becoming a sponsor and/or vendor for this high profile event your company will join our efforts to create a Green Tomorrow. We have several venues targeted and we are also working hand in hand with Hudson Valley green organizations and we will finalize the venue when we see our budget. All that is left is for you to review the contract, review our credentials and write the check and we will do the rest.

By joining you also become a partner! All generated promotions are available for your review once you are on board and all will be approved by you since your corporate name will head our list of sponsors and be first on all billing. This start up fee is so affordable because Passing the Torch is a small not for profit, with a core of highly trained staff, but mostly volunteer, with very little overhead.  

What are you waiting for?

This is a unique endeavor as the day features vending and exhibitions from Green companies throughout the Hudson Valley with major networking opportunities. Music by a local radio station, food by local restaurants and entertainment by Youth focused Theater company Passing the Torch Through the Arts as they perform an original play from their repertoire.

Through this event, we seek to create a Renewable Energy Scholarship and further the mission of Passing the Torch Through the Arts:  To foster Social Change by inspiring youth of the Hudson Valley to strengthen and develop their creative collective consciousness. Channeling this intellectual “energy” into this competition will convert their ideas into innovative solutions that further the renewable energy platform


A New Drama therapy program to stop the violence in schools:

To be implemented with OLWESUS program or as a stand alone classroom presentation and utilizing Theater to stop bullying.

“Who’s running things?”
Stop the Cycle of Violence through responsibility

written by Michael Monasterial

Passing the Torch Through the Arts is a multi-cultural, professional theater company, dedicated to education and social change. Our program is designed to serve At-Risk-Youth in innovative and completely interactive theater projects.

          This short piece of drama is intended to draw the youth into the Bullying program through identification and participation rather than traditional passive classroom teaching.

          It will begin the Kick off event that initiates the week long nationally recognized OLWESUS bullying program of education and a reward system. We engage the students by selecting our cast from the student body, and perform in our short drama entitled, “Who’s running things?”  Or it can be used as a stand alone in class presentation with one of our board certified teachers as the group leader.

          The goal is to identify and understand the Cycle of harmful behavior, in this case, bullying and other school violence, but the same theory applies to  drug use and racial prejudice for example. By actively engaging our Middle school audience by seeing their peers act out the drama, children they are familiar with and can relate to, and the lesson becomes exponentially more effective.

Here’s exactly how it works: 

First, our team introduces themselves and what we do and why we are here. Then, with the help of the teachers familiar with the programming, select 6 students to play the various roles. We cast the play based on the types of actors we need and who we feel, by a quick assessment, can effectively portray the roles. This process can be accomplished within one classroom period.

(Note: Any alert student who can read at or around their grade level will do well. The roles are very simple and written in conversational language. We are just looking for individuals that will not be too embarrassed in front of an audience or not take the production seriously. If the wrong individual is chosen the effectiveness of the play might be lost due to ‘clowning’ and important dialogue drowned out by his/her friends’ laughter.)

Second, we take the 6 students to another quiet room and rehearse the script. We go over lines, who their characters are and who the are to each other, blocking and then perform a couple of brief rehearsals of the entire play. This process can be accomplished within two classroom periods. The students are allowed to paraphrase the dialogue and use index cards so they don’t feel intimidated by the amount of words. Also the dialogue is well balanced and conversational, so there are no long monologues to memorize.  

(Note: any school selected will have a script beforehand, so they can set up the casting and rehearsal place ahead of time and are more than welcome to observe the entire process. We also video the entire event from meeting the teachers to the final product for our archives and so the schools can reproduce the program as many times as it wishes.)

Third, we have a narrator, (a student) who sets up the scenes for the student body and introduces the cast. This excites the imagination. The actors introduce themselves and who they portray. Then the narrator announces the title and begins the production. The drama unfolds and then resolves itself, right before the students eyes so they can better absorb its lesson.

Fourth, our team asks questions and that draw students attention to the definition and concept of Cycles and Responsibility, in simple and basic terms of course. Then the team gives all the actors a big applause and they take their bows.

           The team then turns the assembly over to the school team selected to finish the OLWESUS of rules and reinforcement. This concluding our participation in the program. Or  in case this is a stand alone event the team will begin the final phase of the program in a Q and A that runs something like this.

          (Note: typical questions after the program are: Have you even been bullied, or bullied anyone? A member of the team raises their hands so that the students can identify and feel comfortable about being honest. How did it make you feel? Does doing bad things like    bullying make us bad people or can we change? What is a cycle? Lets talk about some other things that hurt people that are in cycles.   We can’t change everyone from doing bad things to other people, or taking drugs or hating people for the color of their skin or religion, but if we take responsibility…by not doing it ourselves…just us…just one person… because if everyone just changed that one person… just changed themselves…just took responsibility for themselves…then we could change the world.)

The Bully‘s question: “Who‘s do you think is running things around here?” The line is repeated three times in the script once by the Bully, once by his father, and once by the bullying victim, who then becomes a bully himself. The question is posed to the assembly. The entire assembly responds…I am.

Who’s running things…(each student replies) I am.
Who can change things…(each student replies) I can.
Once you know that then no one can Bully you.


Who’s running things?

The cast of Characters include:

     The students put their names in the place of the characters which are:

The bully’s big brother
The boy that is being bullied sister
The boy being bullied
The bully
The second bully victim
The Narrator

The play begins

The Narrator addresses the audience. He/she takes position downstage right and remains there for the entire play.

Good afternoon, and welcome to our school production of “Who’s running things?”  The time is Present. 
The setting is outside the school yard after school. Scene 1.

This is what happened… Here is (Give the girl students name), and she is walking with her brother (give the boy students name) and they are heading home after school, hoping to stop buy the deli and buy some candy or a cake on the way home.

The two actors are walking across the stage. (These names are just samples, any students name can be used.)

Wanda, did I tell you who I like now?

You don’t have to tell me I already know.

You think your smart right? You just know everything right? Who is it then?

Its Lisa. Lisa McRae!

(He is shocked!) How did you know?

Everybody knows.

They do? Everybody?

Deqwan give me a dollar. Daddy gave you two so we can buy something good after school. Let me have my dollar, I don’t want to go to that store we always go to.

Stephen appears.

Hey Deqwan.

He Stephen.

Hey Wanda.

Wanda doesn’t speak.

Your Sister doesn’t like me does she Deqwan?  That’s OK, what we have to talk about has got nothing to do with her anyway.

Stephen stands very close to Deqwan and puts his arm around him. Deqwan looks scared.

You know. I am awful hungry and you want to share whatever you get from the deli with me, don‘t you?

No Stephen he doesn’t because half that money is mine, besides you are not even Deqwans’ friend.

Nobody is even talking to you Wanda. Deqwan is going to share with me because he knows better. He knows who’s running things around here! Right punk?

He pushes Deqwan on the floor and Deqwan starts to cry.

You better get out of here Stephen or I’m gonna tell the teacher on you.

No you won’t, because then everybody will know that Deqwans’ sister fights his battles for him.

Oh yeah!

Stop Wanda.

That’s right, stop Wanda.  I’ll see you when you come out of the deli Deqwan.

Scene 2. Two Days later. Wanda and Deqwan are outside Stephens house.

I don’t think we should be here Deqwan. Every time he sees you he pushes you around.

I don’t care Wanda. I have to make him stop. I’ll pay him off or beg him, or even fight him, but I am tired of being scared everyday.

Just then Stephen and his big brother walk outside of the house and Wanda and  Deqwan duck down out of sight.

Stephens’ Big brother
What did I tell you to do when I left?

He pushes Stephen.

Did I tell you to mow the lawn?

I thought Mamma told you to do that.

Stephens big brother slaps him.

Big brother
Yeah, but I told you to do it. And give me your lunch money, I wanna a beer.

What am I gonna have? I get hungry.

Big brother
Get it from someone else. Now I said give it to me…Don’t forget who’s running things around here. Now go to school…punk.

Stephens big brother pushes Stephen to the ground and Stephen starts to cry.
Wanda and Deqwan look at each other for a moment walk to school quietly.

Scene 3. That afternoon after school, back at the school yard. Deqwan sees another boy counting his change and is about to cross the street going to the deli.

Deqwan walks up to the Boy and puts his arm around him.

Hey Andre.

Hey Deqwan.

You going to the store?

(He is scared) Yeah, I guess.

(Threatening) Well I am going with you.

Wanda enters and joins them.

Deqwan? What are you doing?!?

Andre runs away.

What Wanda? Mind your business.

Look at What your doing? Stephens big brother bullied him and then he bullied you and now you’re a bully! Didn’t you learn anything?

Yeah, I learned that big guys take from little guys and it feels good. Now I’m running things! So go home Wanda.
Hey Andre come over here!

That is the end of our play … or is it?

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