The Young Playwrights Festival is 22 year old citywide innovative, school-oriented program that encourages the development of independent, high-level thinking and strong personal values, and enhances understanding of reading, writing, and cultural diversity. It is an in depth program that involves teaching teachers to use play-writing techniques as a continuing educational tool, and in the over 40 schools involved in the Chicago area, most teachers in the program spend approximately 6 weeks of a 36 weeks curriculum using these tools. 90% of the schools served by YPF are schools in the poverty bracket as defined by the federal government.
The ultimate goal of YPF is to make the arts a means of delivering the core literacy curriculum. YPF ignites students' interest with the performance/workshop, giving basic instruction in play writing, and providing an incentive to do so with the play writing contest. The process of play writing in the classroom brings into play all of the natural curiosity, creativity, energy and initiative of young people. This process encourages self-esteem, personal and social well being and a deepened understanding of our multicultural world. The students giving voice to their creativity also develop higher-order thinking and real-life problem solving. Since the process begins with the individual student, it is intrinsically multi-cultural in nature, therefore immediately accessible, exciting, and non-threatening. The process allows for removal of cultural barriers between students and teachers. It makes learning fun and empowers individuals and gives self worth to their own experiences, their own points of view. Because the students can control the outcome of the story, they learn of the power of words and ideas; indeed, for many it is the first time that they see they have power over their own lives through the choices they make.
During the 2005-2006 school year, the Young Playwrights Festival reached over 5,000 students. 655 scripts were submitted, written by 945 student playwrights, several entries being written cooperatively in groups. Through the Festival, Pegasus has reached over 95,000 teenagers and received and evaluated 9,107 original scripts. In 2005-2006 there were 107 YPF classroom tours and follow-up workshops teaching play writing in the Chicago schools requested by 40 teachers in 30 schools and alternative sites. All but five of the public schools had a majority of their students living in poverty. Eight free YPF matinee performances were held for school groups. Approximately 1,700 students attended free matinee performances of the Festival plays.
This program was launched eight years ago, has now grown to include the neighborhoods of Uptown, Edgewater, and Rogers Park. ARTS uses artist-teacher collaborations in schools during school hours and linking these projects to after school programs. Final Total for the Entire ARTS program: 33 teachers; 40 classes; 27 artists, 910 students directly involved in program; 2250 students and parents attended performances of students' work. Combined total: 3193. Residencies range from 8 to 12 weeks in length. In total, teaching artists spent over 500 hours working directly with students in the classroom. On June 8, 2006, Amundsen High School was invited to perform their original play A Rough Draft for over 500 teachers at the Lead Literacy Conference through the Chicago Reading Initiative and Chicago Public Schools. The following schools hosted A.R.T.S. residencies during the 2005-2006 school year: Arai Middle School, Brenneman Elementary, Disney Elementary, McCutcheon Elementary, Passages Elementary, Stewart Elementary, Stockton Elementary, Amundsen High School, Hayt Elementary School, Senn High School, Sullivan High School
Global Voices involves the exchange of one-act plays between Chicago schools and schools in international cities with the purpose of promoting literacy and providing a forum for self-expression across languages and cultures. The play writing process takes place in world language classes in classrooms of the Chicago Public Schools and in English classes in Chicago Sister Cities' partner international cities. The goal is to link students and educators in classrooms around the globe through a partnership with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Sister Cities International Program to further cultural understanding and peace. It gives schools a vehicle to build bridges and good will, people-to-people, between young Americans and youth from other countries.
There is a strong demand on schools worldwide to transform themselves in the midst of a rapidly globalizing economy. Emerging technology is changing the way information is received, and it follows that it should also be applied to the way schools teach and students learn. However, to date, U.S. elementary and secondary schools offer almost nothing in the way of international programming, and virtually no systematic opportunities for American students to interact with peers from around the world. Yet, there is near universal agreement that today's youth must have skills to function and survive in an environment far more diverse and complex than that of a generation ago. Aside from traditional student foreign exchange programs (in which only 1% of students participate) even language classes do not engage students beyond the walls of the classroom. Current exchanges include classrooms in China, Jordan, Morocco, Mexico, and the United Kingdom with Chicago World Language classes in Arabic, French, ESL, Mandarin, and Spanish.