Barter Theater's "Project Real" connects theater with classroom curriculum

ABINGDON, VA (WJHL)- A program here in our region is connecting theater basics with classroom curriculum. Barter Theater's "Project Real" is in 12 different schools in three different states. Three "teaching artists" from Barter Theater go in to classrooms each week.

One of those teaching artists is Ryan Henderson. Much like his days as a Barter player, in the classroom, Henderson has to think on his feet, listen, and keep his audience engaged.

He comes in to classrooms armed with lessons on science, math, whatever the teacher wants help with.

"We create activities that are rooted in theater fundamentals so they're more physically engaging and require a lot of social interaction and the students then get to reflect the curriculum based on those activities back to their personal life," Henderson said.

He said Project Real works on communication skills, learning empathy, and thinking outside the box.

"I'd rather be active in certain things because I have ADHD and it helps me more than just sitting down and writing notes," Patrick Henry High School student Larrah Bonner said.

Earth and Environmental Sciences teacher Eric Hoffman said he uses Project Real to introduce new concepts and terms to his students.

"Whenever I relate back to those key terms they shout it out immediately and sometimes they'll even do the dance," Hoffman said.

"One time for logarithms we played dodge ball in the gym and we couldn't go past a certain border and that really helped me understand which direction the logarithm should go in," Patrick Henry High School student Julia Street said.

Henderson said the goal is to connect movement with learning.

"It really helped me see the way is that math could be shown, not just on paper and numbers, but in real life," Street said.

"I'm a believer that your five senses are the key to education rather than just your traditional textbook type learning," Hoffman said.

Henderson said some of the lessons lead in to meaningful, unplanned conversations.

"Sometimes you have conversations about the drug crisis in the region, sometimes we talk about coal's impact in our economy and the way we live. Whatever is resonating with them we have to be ready to engage in that conversation," Henderson said.

From conversations about coal to dodge ball games about logarithms, Project Real leaves a lasting impression on the students.

"Pretty soon they're like when his project real coming back to my classroom," Hoffman said.

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