Growing up, I was a theatre kid. For over 15 years of my childhood, I took weekly theatre classes at a local community theatre. It was the cornerstone of my existence, drama queen that I was. It was the only arena in which I excelled. Now that I'm a parent, it's interesting to me to see how my kids learn from their drama classes — a part of the curriculum of their school. There are so many benefits of theatre classes for kids, and they're about so much more than having fun.
For years, it seemed that the only education worth pursuing was STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) instruction, leaving creative pursuits by the wayside. But the tides are shifting in education and lately, a more well-rounded approach has emerged. STEM has become STEAM, with the A standing for "arts." While that could be anything from sculpture to tap dancing, many students find their home in the theatre. There are myriad benefits for children who enroll in theatre classes, from developing the ability to learn from older generations, as researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered, and promote cross-generational communication, to improving simple skills like memorization and spatial awareness, reported Scholastic.
As someone who is still terribly clumsy, I cannot imagine how much worse it would be if I hadn't learned to hit my mark, or find my light. These are just a few of the many benefits kids like me gain from the experience of theatre classes.
1. Gives Them A Safe Space
A cross cultural analysis published in the Drama Australia Journal found that children and adolescents from the United States and Sweden had remarkably similar reasons for staying in theatre classes long after many of their classmates stopped. They remarked that the theatre became a home for them, a safe place of expression where they are allowed to truly be themselves, even while they're pretending to be someone else. In a difficult emotional period, this is a crucial element to theatre.
2. Encourages Social and Behavioral Development
A British study in the journal Research in Drama Education that explored the benefits of theatre classes for children and teens found that going to theatre classes provided them with abstract tools to help them move into adulthood. The research "identified the skills, capacities and resources that help young people make successful transitions to adulthood in the current social and economic climate."
3. Kids Have Higher SAT Scores
Fun fact: I slept two hours before taking my SAT test, and I buzzed through that thing fast as you like, because I was sure I was going to theatre school in-state, and they only cared about my range. I still did pretty dang good on my SATs, and it turns out that I might have theatre to thank for it. (If you're wondering, I sang "Stars and The Moon" from Songs for A New World for my audition. I got in.) A study in Youth Theatre Journal on the lifelong benefits of theatre wrote that "Multiple independent studies have shown increased years of enrollment in arts courses are positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores. High school students who take arts classes have higher math and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes."
4. Makes Kids Less Likely To Drop Out
Being a theatre kid is great for your educational prospects. Those kids involved in theatre have a tangible connection to the school, and their schooling, which is related with a decreased incidence of dropping out of school or extracurricular activities, noted a study in Encounters of Theory and History in Education.
5. Promotes Open-Mindedness
Even in the short term, like the course of a summer program, children who engage in theatre are generally more open-minded to cultures and personalities different from their own, noted a piece published by the University of Maryland.
Think of all of the people you come in contact with in theatre. It's diverse in all ways, and that is an education in itself. This doesn't even take into account the fact that in playing someone else, someone different, you're forced to engage with that culture and character in an intimate, personal way, which often changes minds and hearts.
6. It Builds Confidence
The number one reason that many of my friends have placed their children in theatre classes is to build confidence. Much of the time, it's successful, noted theatre company, The Barrow Group. In theatre, children are given free reign to be goofy, silly, to mess up, to create, to dance and laugh, without anyone making fun of them for it. Classes are a low-stakes environment that allows children to see the best in themselves and their friends. This does wonderful things for your kids' confidence.
7. It Enhances Literary and Historical Knowledge
It turns out that being in a historical play, or a play based on literature, really helps the information sink in. A study published in Education Next, reported by Science Daily, wrote that exposure to and being involved in theatre changed the way kids learn: "What we determined from this research is that seeing live theater produced positive effects that reading a play or watching a movie of the play does not produce."