In this day and age of texting and tweeting, several Arlington Heights second-graders experienced something of a throwback: they learned to write -- more specifically, write for the stage.
"I've never written a play before," said Megan Snow, a second-grader at Ivy Hill Elementary School in Arlington Height, "but it was cool to see our ideas acted out."
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Last week, she and her classmates saw the biographies of their teachers they had developed come to life on the stage at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
After working with teaching artists from the Metropolis over the last four weeks, students from Dryden, Greenbrier and Ivy Hill elementary schools attended short skits performed by professional actors, and all drawn from their interviews and story arcs.
One of Megan's classmates, Cherry Gadamandla of Arlington Heights, added that seeing their work turned into plays gave her an idea.
"You usually see plays that come from an adult's idea," Cherry said. "This time it was plays coming from kids' ideas."
Their interviewing and writing skills were at the core of the "Write to the Spotlight" program, designed by the Arlington Heights Arts Commission and co-sponsored by Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 and the Metropolis.
"It's important for kids," says Bill Kruser, a member of the Arlington Heights Arts Commission. "If we can get them as second-graders to continue and become interested in creative writing, then we've accomplished something."
Another arts commission member, Janet Souter, says the impact of working with working actors and writers helps to reinforce students' interest.
"They might not think they can write," Souter said, "but when you bring it into their school and they see it acted out onstage, suddenly they can."
Students began by developing interview questions to gather information about their teachers. The Metropolis teaching artists then worked with each class to understand the concepts of character, environment, relationships, obstacles and conflicts.
"It was such a joy to work with them so closely," said Jessi Gangware, one of the Metropolis teachers. "This program really gave students an opportunity to let their creativity out and to use their imaginations. You could just see their confidence growing."
Amy Cornelius serves as arts education coordinator for the Metropolis, and she sees "Write to the Spotlight," as one of their outreach programs for local schoolchildren.
"This program works because it's incorporated right into their curriculum," Cornelius says. "As a result, the arts help these students experience learning in new and exciting ways."