Opera by Children and Civic & Character Education Development
Opera by Children Director, Pamela Gee
Opera by Children, the in-school arts education program for Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre naturally utilizes topics of social studies, civics, creative themes and character education values. Students learn these as they create opera. Each class that creates an opera enriches, empowers and enables deeper study of the character education and civics program that is in place at their school. This allows for lifelong learning as they create community in their very own classroom.
Opera by Children utilizes all art forms to create experiences, which develop and expand the students’ perception of how to function in society. It also expands their understanding of the world and their place in it now and in the future. Classes create original stories which may be based on actual events from history i.e.: Black Hawk War, 911, Pearl Harbor, World War II, and Revolutionary War. Others reveal the free enterprise system featuring entrepreneurship and the American spirit of resilience and determination. Some stories, in contrast, are creative fairytales. However, all stories focus on character education and the values taught in schools
Classes celebrate the cause of liberty in operas such as “Battle of Baltimore” (recounting the creation of the Star Spangled Banner) “Dr Phils’ Big Guest”, “Pearl Harbor’s Darkest Day”, even “Mother Goose”. Students penning such words as “Patience is the key to success and liberty!” demonstrate how classes learn from past and present successes, mistakes and experiences. This strengthens character development.
The process of creating an Opera by Children is based on civic forms of democracy and character education, along with community development. It embraces lifelong learning skills necessary to future success in college and careers. A class’ current study of the Titanic in opera form helped students understand arrogance, lives lost, and of heroism that rose above tragedy. Each student discovers characteristics in their own self value. Through this type of exploration, Isaac, a young man with cerebral palsy, overcame the barrier between his peers created by missing regular classroom time, his wheel chair and walker. He was able to engage and connect with the class because of his determination to take part. He decided he would participate without the wheelchair or walker and accomplished all the staging with his own physical power. His peers supported him and he felt included and great satisfaction in his accomplishment. That is the magic of Opera by Children.
All ideas are contributed and considered for inclusion in the opera in a democratic way. There must be consensus through a democratic vote to move forward in the process. Honesty, respect (for teacher, school, family, home) communication, service, honor, obedience are all encompassed in the process with the use of the three goals. The three goals for classroom cooperation are: 1) No one gets hurt, 2) Everyone participates and 3) It is the Students work. This makes it possible for teachers and students to employ Trust, Affirmation and bring great Growth into the classroom (TRAG) which builds a strong community. You can bring Opera by Children to your classroom to help you enrich, empower and further character education and civic studies in your school community. The choice lasts a lifetime.