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DC Students Acting Out(side) in Search of Urban Forests

Students from the Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., take to the streets pretending to use binoculars in search of their urban forest with a member of the Missoula (Montana) Chlidren's Theatre. The Missoula Children's Theatre works with the U.S. Forest Service to develop interactive, engaging performing arts school assemblies and workshops.

Students from Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., found out the fastest way to find a forest within their urban community: walk outside.

The students were among more than 240 who participated in engaging, interactive theatre workshops, “If Trees Could Talk,” sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service Conservation Education office. The week-long event included the Missoula (Mont.) Children’s Theatre, which strives to empower children with a positive self-image while helping them improve their communication skills and grades and gain an increased sense of tolerance and respect for others.

The Children’s Theatre works with the Forest Service and educators to develop interactive workshops about natural resources where students “act out” their learning through basic improvisation and imagination. During the workshops, students make the journey from the “simulated reality” of cell phones and video games to imagined reality to real-life observations outdoors. The activity supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! and Let’s Move Outside! initiatives.

“It was wonderful to see the children really respond to the chance to use their imaginations,” said Victoria Author, conservation education specialist with the Forest Service. “They enthusiastically acted out cooking s’mores on a campfire, packing their backpack for a hike to the woods, and even being trees, birds, and a stream. I’m sure the students learned more because they were engaged in the learning process through acting out the conservation stewardship lessons.”

The Missoula Children’s Theatre’s International Tour Program visits communities in every state, four Canadian provinces, and 16 foreign countries. An estimated 65,000 school children participate in the organization’s productions each year.

The Children’s Theatre troupe will return to Washington in January to debut the musical production, “The Secret Garden,” based on the classic book of the same name written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.