Into The Woods Shines A Spotlight On Cambridge Upper Schools

into_the_woods.jpegThe student experience of the Innovation Agenda opens with a song when future Vassal Lane Upper School students perform in Beyond the 4th Wall Expression Theatre’s production of Into the Woods on December 9-10th at 7PM with a 3PM matinee on December 11.

Featuring a cast and crew of 5th through 7th grade students from the Graham & Parks, Haggerty, and Tobin Schools, Into the Woods will offer a glimpse of the new upper school program set to open next fall.

A total of four Upper School musicals and two elementary school musicals will be produced by Beyond The 4th Wall, a community-based children’s arts organization who has provided their children’s musical program at two of Cambridge’s largest elementary schools for the past 8 years.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Young cites this collaboration as an example of what the Innovation Agenda will be able to offer students in Cambridge. He states, “We’re pleased to partner with Beyond the 4th Wall to provide the kind of experience that wasn’t possible before the Innovation Agenda.”

boy_on_stage.pngHe explains, “With some schools educating as few as twelve or fifteen students by the eighth grade, it’s been challenging to offer the same richness of opportunity at all schools in Cambridge. These musicals are just the first of many examples where bringing schools together will create increased opportunity for all students.”

School musicals have long been a staple of successful middle schools, and performing arts programs have been linked to positive outcomes for young people including improving academics and behavior during the school day. Beyond the 4th Wall has been able to provide their program tuition free through the generous support of donors, grants, tickets sales, and this year, support from the Cambridge Public school system. “It is our mission to ensure that none of our programs are cost prohibitive and that we get a diverse range of students participating,” says Executive Director Lace Campbell.

She continues, “Our favorite moments are being able to see an otherwise shy or introverted student take the stage and shine with joy and confidence in a way no one has seen before.  That’s what theatre can do. It changes people. Our hope is that families across Cambridge come out to see these productions to celebrate student achievement across the district.” 

Into the Woods will be followed by a performance of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at the King Open school, one of the original programs sites. Their next middle school musical will be Annie Jr. by Rindge Avenue Upper School students who are currently attending the Peabody, Baldwin, and Amigos scheduled for February 10-11 at 7PM with a 3PM matinee on February 12.

The Putnam Avenue Upper School musical will be Willy Wonka Jr. and feature students from the King, Kennedy- Longfellow and Morse schools and will take place at the Kennedy Longfellow school on March 29-April 1. The Cambridge Street Upper School musical (TBA), featuring students from Cambridgeport School, Fletcher-Maynard Academy and King Open School, will take place on April 27-29 at the King Open School.

Working with Beyond the 4th Wall is just a small piece of a broad planning process for the Innovation Agenda that is engaging teachers, administrators, human service providers and parents within an organized planning process. Starting in September 2012, the Cambridge’s public elementary schools will consist of 11 K-5 elementary schools, four Upper Schools for students in grades 6-8, and one K-8 Spanish Language Immersion school.

Read more about the Innovation Agenda.

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