Arizonans may know Childsplay for the theatrical performances they have been delivering to students and families across our state for the past 35 years. Did you also know the theatre company has been developing an innovative program to boost academic performance by teaching educators how to integrate arts education into their curriculum? The EYEPlay (Early Years Educators at Play) program promotes literacy and language acquisition for children ages 3 – 5. EYEPlay is an outgrowth of Childsplay’s U.S. Department of Education-funded Drama Frames initiative in which teaching artists trained elementary and middle school teachers how to incorporate drama in teaching writing, science and history.

In 2010, Childsplay received an 18-month Research and Planning grant from the Helios Education Foundation to research best practices in Early Childhood Education to adapt its Drama Frames model, and to implement a pilot program in the fall of 2011 at five Phoenix sites:  Homeward Bound Kids Corner, Beatitudes Agelink, The Family School, City of Phoenix Head Start at Roadrunner Elementary, and Southwest Human Development Head Start at Encanto Elementary.

“Many of us who grew up in the arts understand intuitively that the creative process benefits academics,” said Jenny Millinger, Childsplay’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. “This program has provided us with quantitative data that demonstrates the direct, positive impact engagement with the arts can have on academic performance.” (Click here to download information on the research.)

The current grant will allow full implementation of the EYEPlay pilot program in 32 pre-school classrooms across metropolitan Phoenix. Each participating teacher will receive 18 months of drama and literacy-based professional development with Childsplay teaching artists. Teachers will learn how to use  drama strategies as tools for teaching literacy through their participation in group professional development and in-classroom teaching opportunities specifically tailored to each teacher’s needs.

Although EYEPlay is new, Childsplay has been promoting arts & education in Arizona for decades. Between performing in schools across the state, running teacher in-service trainings, distributing guides for parents and teachers to help students continue to learn after seeing a performance, educators are familiar with the company and its contributions.

“At Childsplay, we know that a world-class education for Arizona’s students is not only possible, but vital to the success of our state,” said Millinger. “Bringing more creative opportunities to integrate arts into curriculum will only help our state achieve that goal faster.”

The EYEPlay program launches in September 2012 and continues into 2015, and Childsplay’s 36th season begins in September.

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