NYC Wolf Trap
CAT’s Early Learning Program (ELP) uses interactive drama to strengthen literacy, critical thinking, and essential social-emotional skills among pre-k through 2nd grade students. Additionally, the ELP team trains teachers in participant-centered pedagogy and drama strategies to help them meet Common Core Standards and better engage children, including those who are traditionally harder to reach.
In FY2016, with the support of the NYCT Brooke Astor Fund for NYC Education, ELP provided an intensive matrix of professional development workshops, in-class residences and parent workshops to 9 New York City public schools, to bolster literacy skills among high-poverty students. ELP also continued its partnerships with Birch Family Services, educational centers for young people with autism and other developmental disabilities; Homes for the Homeless, a group of Tier II transitional housing shelters for families; and with United Federation of Teachers, providing professional development workshops to its members.
ELP’s groundbreaking work with early childhood students and their teachers continues to prompt requests from across the country and internationally for CAT staff to share their work. ELP’s director, Helen Wheelock, presented or led residencies for Fresno State, the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Seoul National University of Education last year.
Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts
The CUNY-CAT Early Learning program is pleased to serve as the Regional Dissemination site of Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts program. Created through a four-year US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement Grant, the program pursued five goals, each of which was strengthened and supported by the others.
developing an innovative, research-based arts integration model for early childhood learning in math;
educating Wolf Trap Teaching Artists in early childhood math skills and concepts to ensure the development of high-quality math/arts content;
providing professional development to teachers that enables them to apply arts-based strategies in their classrooms;
improving children’s math and performing arts skills in concert with curriculum standards; and
documenting and disseminating this model nationally.
The arts and STEM are natural partners — both share sequential learning and habits of mind that support creative problem-solving, imaginative thinking, and transference of skills and knowledge to new experiences. Working side by side with the teachers and parents to incorporate the arts into children’s daily experiences, the Wolf Trap Institute’s arts-based teaching method taps into children’s innate desire for active, multisensory learning. Children literally embody concepts by singing and dancing, and they engage their imagination through puppetry, story dramatization, and role play. This approach helps young children to:
develop skills, language, concepts, and vocabulary in many different subject areas;
acquire such 21st-century skills as critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration, which are key to their future success; and
achieve learning outcomes that are aligned with national, state, and local curriculum standards.
If you would like to bring the Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts program to your site or school, please contact Helen Wheelock.
Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts is a program of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
CAT’s Early Childhood Educators’ Professional Development Initiative is a professional development and mentoring project for educators who have few opportunities for intensive skill-building. Through the Interactive Storytelling and Emergent Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom curriculum, the Initiative offers:
Guided professional development – both theory and practice – on how drama strategies support emergent literacy skills, such as recall, sequencing, projection, inference, oral language and vocabulary.
High-quality, direct services to early childhood students in support of their English language acquisition, emergent literacy, and essential social-emotional skills.
Interested in Puppets and Puppeteering? Drama in the Early Childhood Classroom? Supporting Your Child’s Language Skills? Click here for MORE Early Learning Professional Development opportunities for teachers and parents!
IN THE BEGINNING: IN-CLASS DRAMAS
An ongoing collaboration with classroom teachers has been a vital part of the Early Learning: NYC Wolf Trap program’s growth and evolution. Created in 1993 to take CAT’s issue-based drama work into the early childhood classroom, the program initially worked with a few NYC DOE schools and then partnered with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) to offer five-day residencies with citywide Head Start programs. Click here to read about the history of the Early Learning Program and below for story synopses of our two-person, interactive dramas:
Alphabet Keepers – a drama about a group of elves in the Land of Letters
Magic Drum – Set in Nigeria, this drama explores the issue of inclusion and exclusion
The Tale of the Tancho – A ground-breaking drama that examines the responsibility of a community in the face of a bully
Who Stopped the Rain? – A story that explores the impact of litter on a family of rabbits’ farm
REPORTS & PUBLICATIONS
Based on increased interest in CAT’s successful model, the Early Learning Program has provided both direct services and professional development to teachers and students in national and international schools. CAT’s Early Learning Program has been invited to lead workshops and residencies across and outside the country and inspired a number of articles and educational research projects. Click here to find Articles, Blogs and Reports about the Early Learning Program.
Click here to see how our work supports the Common Core Standards: Approaching the Common Core Standards through Interactive Storytelling
CAT maintains a dynamic partnership with the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning in the Arts and is the Institute’s designated NYC site.
The goal of CAT's Early Learning Program is to support children’s development of important life skills and to give educators creative ways to support those skills:
For students: CAT workshops are designed to support the Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts the New York State Common Core Learning Standards, including these specific Standards addressed by CAT's Early Learning workshops.
For Educators: CAT professional development workshops are designed to encourage teachers to incorporate drama-based activities into the classroom, to promote children’s English acquisition and early literacy, social development, critical thinking skills, and emotional growth.
- 4,212 Early Learners from Head Start & Pre-K through 2nd Grade
- 852 Early Childhood Educators
- 234 Parents
- 39 Schools & Community Sites, including 2 Transitional Housing Sites
- 65 Emergent Literacy & Mentoring Residencies
- 214 Professional Development Workshops
- 17 Conference Presentation Sessions for 325 Participants
- 50 Parent Workshops
93% of participating teachers reported that they learned questioning strategies that served to scaffold students’ thinking to a higher level.
“I am a Dual Language teacher… The actor that worked with me gave me the option to do the different activities in Spanish. Using interactive drama strategies, oral language skills and vocabulary development in Spanish helped me to support my English-dominant students in their second-language acquisition and to develop their essential social-emotional skills.”
Participating Early Childhood Educator
“CAT is implementing a highly successful mentorship and professional development program to incorporate interactive drama strategies in literacy instruction. Based on evidence from ongoing evaluation, the program is generating change in the way reading is taught and supported in grades K-2. CAT-ELP shows potential for improving foundational and higher-order reading skills including phonemic awareness, oral language, vocabulary development, inferencing, and analyzing characters' point-of-view.”
CUNY Office of Research, Evaluation, and Program Support
CAT’s interactive, student-centered approach has proven successful across ages and abilities. Our teachers say it best:
Children who hadn’t spoken all year were, all of a sudden, speaking. Children who were unable to express themselves, whether it was through voice or through actions, were able to participate, to be part of a group—to contribute in a positive way without being pointed out in a negative way. It was an awesome experience for them.
The children became storytellers. A lot of them could retell the stories they heard using facial gestures, movements, and voice changes. They are very attentive during the storytelling; it captures their attention. They feel like they are part of the story, and they really enjoy it.
So many teachers have one way of thinking and teaching. Storytelling takes you outside the box. It is not only where teachers need to go, but where administrators need to go. That’s where we want our kids to go – to think outside the box, so we have to model it.
As the special education teacher, I feel the play movements enhance the children’s “focus” on the story. I also feel storytelling, with its physical movements, silly questions, or actions actually create a more cohesive atmosphere in the classroom. It’s as if the “playing field” has been altered and my kids are having the same opportunities as everybody else to compete and follow along with the story. I really do enjoy using storytelling to enhance and further interactive experiences for all children.
Based on increased interest in CAT’s successful model, the Early Learning Program has provided both direct services and professional development to teachers and students in national and international schools. CAT’s Early Learning Program has been invited to lead workshops and residencies across and outside the country and inspired a number of articles and educational research projects.
Through CAT’S interactive drama and storytelling, students and teachers explore many themes, including:
- Being true to oneself
- Respect for language
- Creative problem-solving
- Empathy and self-regulation
- Respect for the environment
- Oral and physical literacy
FY17 ELP Team
Early Learning: NYC Wolf Trap
ELP Program Manager
Director of Resource Development