Suspend belief Theatrical play equals learning

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Integrative arts, performance and storytelling help build emotional intelligence in children.

As Twirl's early childhood educator, I draw heavily on my 10 years' experience as a professional modern dancer in New York City in my work.

For the past 11 years, I've been facilitating integrative arts programs at Twirl and in Taos public school classrooms. Integrative arts is a style of teaching in which the teacher uses dance, theater, music or/and visual arts to support learning standards.

It's a tool used to "involve" students in unique learning opportunities. It is a way of using fun and play to explore learning standards.

Theatrical play equals learning. Ask any early childhood educator and they will tell you that play is the cornerstone of learning for children. Children are action researchers: they are naturally imaginative and curious; they learn through experiences and meaningful play.

With Twirl, I have created programming built on the foundation of role-playing, singing, storytelling, puppetry, dance and other theater-inspired approaches to encourage learning. Theatrical tools are wonderful at triggering the attention of early learners and in helping to spark curiosity, challenge creative thinking, as well as setting up young children to fall in love with learning.

It is through theatrical arts that children can become part of the learning process rather than an observer of it. Dance can help children understand simple machines, music can help with geometry and shapes, theatrical arts can allow children to explore the life cycle of a mushroom and puppetry can build an understanding of other cultures.

This style of teaching taps into the natural desire for active learning through the senses. Children have fun while grasping the learning concepts when they are engaged through multiple senses.

During these COVID times, it was important for me to continue to provide these programs to families even if they couldn't be in person. Twirl now has a daily schedule of 11 a.m. Facebook live programs rooted in theatrical arts for families with young children - Mindful Mondays, Family Music, Ballet, Theater Play and Friday Feelings, as well as YouTube offerings including fun puppet shows.

I also use theatrical learning experiences as a way to build community and family relationships. For example, in collaboration with the Taos Public Library summer reading program, Twirl will be presenting an original puppet musical entitled "Lucy and the Fairy's Cake" written by myself and guest musician Robin Coolidge.

This puppet play follows a young girl who is stolen by two magical fairies because she is the best cake baker in the whole world and they are hungry for cake.

Puppetry is magic for children. Not only do children respond and engage in a very sincere way, but the shared experience of watching a puppet show with family builds important bonds and family memories through shared experiences.

The New Mexico Public Library Summer Reading Program for 2020 features the theme of folktales/fairy tales, with a slogan of "Imagine Your Story." So, I created this musical with the intention of explaining to young audiences what a fairy tale is. How do fairy tales work? What makes something a fairy tale?

The children will hear music, see puppetry and interact physically with the Zoom performance from their own homes. You can see "Lucy and the Fairy's Cake" via Zoom on July 16 at 10:30 a.m. You can find a link for the puppet musical on the Taos Public library summer reading website at

Human beings at every age and stage are curious creatures. We have an endless capacity to want to learn. But humans also desire motivation and stimulation. This is where the arts fit in so nicely.

Theatrical play, performance and storytelling have a way of overstepping all the things that get in our way as human beings. By including theater arts in its outreach, Twirl aims to give families and communities a new way to relate to one another, a new way to be entertained and a new way to learn and help build emotional intelligence. Something our ancestors recognized as important and vital all those years ago.

Visit to find out more about online classes and outreach efforts.

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