Kofi Dennis and Ingrid Crepeau are among about 200 professional teaching artists who work with schools as part of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts.
This acclaimed program, based at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia, works with regional organizations across the United States to provide arts-in-education services for children ages 3-5, as well as their parents and teachers, through drama, music, and movement.
The Arts for Teaching
Wolf Trap’s early childhood program began in 1981. “Education has always been central to Wolf Trap’s mission,” explains Miriam Flaherty, senior director of education. “But in 1981, someone from Head Start approached one of our board members. Head Start was really looking at opportunities to have an impact on how teachers teach. And they wondered if the arts could be part of a teacher’s professional development program and if the arts could really be used to help young children learn.”
A quarter-century later, the program continues to grow and thrive. “I believe the success is because it’s about a partnership—a meaningful partnership between artists and teachers,” Flaherty says. “It comes down to where the children are in the classroom, what the teacher’s goals and objectives are for the children. The artist isn’t going in and doing a set performance. And the children aren’t audience members. They’re all participants together.”
Teacher Karen Bump, who worked with Dennis in her classroom at Belvedere Elementary, agrees. “When Mr. Kofi came into our classroom—he would come in two or three times a week—the children were so excited to see him. And I was just as excited because I knew we were going to have a good time and we were going to learn some new things and learn some new ways of learning. Joyful, active learning is what happens when you have a Wolf Trap artist in the classroom.”