WALDOBORO — The Waldo Theater (916 Main Street) currently operates a school program, InterAct, for local elementary schools with plans to expand through the fall of 2022. The goal is to provide quality arts education that reinforces academic learning goals, such as reading comprehension and oral language skills, while also addressing vital social-emotional skills, such as confidence, communication, and connecting with the community.
The program was designed by Mia Branco, who has worked as a teaching artist for over 12 years, specializing in the development of theater programs for autistic and emotionally traumatized students in independent settings, as well as within schools. In the fall of 2021, along with Kate Fletcher, executive director of The Waldo, Branco began running the program in two local third-grade classrooms, at Warren Community School and Miller School in Waldoboro.
The 2021 education program was made possible by an initial grant of $3,500 from the Onion Foundation. The Waldo has since won two competitive grants to be able to offer the program to several other schools in RSU District 40 who have expressed interest. A grant of $9,650 from the Nellie Leaman Taft Foundation and $10,000 from the Maine Community Foundation Maine Expansion Arts Program will fund school programming through fall 2022.
Branco and Fletcher hope to build a sustainable program to reach more students. “It’s such an important opportunity to focus on critical thinking, communication and connecting with the community,” Branco said. “The Waldo already has such incredible ripple, after just seven months of opening, and these kids have a place in this theater as part of a family.”
A climactic presentation by third graders from Miller and Warren School at The Waldo was planned for February, but, due to current COVID-19 conditions, a film version of their stories is now taking shape. The final film will be shared with students’ families and teachers.
“We hope we can come together safely this spring for a community screening of student work,” Fletcher said. “They put a lot of creativity and imagination into their stories, and we want to share that and celebrate that.”
The program Branco designed for the once-a-week school curriculum emphasizes storytelling and allows young actors to tell their own story as an ensemble using the “four tools you have with you at all times. – body, voice, mind and imagination”. .”
Waldo board member Christa Thorpe said the board’s commitment to inclusion and youth programming was what drew her to the mission of the theatre, which had been closed for more than five years. years when she joined the board.
“I want people to know that when you support The Waldo, you’re doing so much more than keeping the lights on in a historic building,” Thorpe said. “It’s about supporting incredibly talented people like Mia who are helping Kate rebuild the community around The Waldo. It’s about the kids and also the rest of us, lifelong learners. is what excites me about this education program and the possibility of more things like this in the future.
For more information about Waldo’s programs, including live theater, live music, films and education, and to make a contribution, visit www.waldotheatre.org.
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