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Gaining multiple skills and perspectives through the performing arts

04 October 2018

In this article Rachel Whitehunt, Director of Performing Arts at the British International School of Washington has written about the Performing Arts curriculum and how it can help students build skills that are transferable: skills that can be used across all subjects at school and later on in life.

  • juilliard

Teachers at our schools around the world are exploring the idea of offering holistic experiences within the Performing Arts that give students multiple learning opportunities and challenges them to look at their work in different ways. Our Performing Arts teachers are supported by the Creative Classroom: an extraordinary online collection of educational resources that have been designed by The Juilliard School in New York to enhance and supplement the Performing Arts curricula in Nord Anglia Education schools.

At the British International School of Washington for example, students in Year 9 participate in a Performing Arts class that is project based. In this class the students learn about drama, music and dance techniques that they apply to a project and then develop. As students think and develop their ideas, the project evolves. Ideas are drawn from the Creative Classroom, their own experiences and the ideas of their teachers. This is not a new concept but the way in which the learning experience is delivered is different. Students are allowed to explore and experience a concept from many dimensions. The idea is to challenge students in many ways and possibly open the door to some students who previously have not connected or resonated with the arts.

Eric Booth, author of ‘The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible, Becoming a Virtuoso Educator’ says in his book, “The arts are the secular common ground, the agora, where people can meet to address the most important issues in life.” 

Eric Booth conducted a workshop at a professional development session with Juilliard. Offering performing arts opportunities across whole year groups emphasised his point. We want to challenge our students in ways that go beyond the arts, giving them a voice and a tool that can nurture their ability to empathise with others, to consider another’s point of view.


dance class

Thinking about how you can convey energy to an audience takes students on a journey that explores many aspects of the performing arts. By working as a team, students apply their learning to create a performing arts piece encompassing several arts elements that aim to constantly challenge their thinking and the way they perceive things.

Harry Roberts, a Drama teacher at BISW says by learning an art form, students develop several life skills. “I see drama as a holistically important curriculum available in our performing arts programme. As globalisation permeates the 21st century, the ability to talk, act and communicate in a variety of formats becomes paramount. Moreover, focusing on collaboration, autonomy and respect provides young learners with the life skills that are transferable; both now and as they move into adulthood”.

Developing performing arts across our schools and showing students and our school communities how we can express ourselves, develop independent thinking, self-motivation and an understanding of the arts through multiple perspectives is an integral part of a forward-thinking education.  We are not trying to make all our students stage ready. However if this is your vision, your child is in the right place!

We want to create students who are curious, who share a love and joy of the arts and who feel comfortable exploring and experiencing  it. We want our students to feel that their creativity is supported in a wide range of ways and that they are free to experiment and develop many different aspects within the arts. We want to acknowledge and teach performance arts by linking music, dance and drama in a way that gives students the opportunity to express themselves fully and appreciate how this interdisciplinary subject gives them a platform to analyse and experience the nuts and bolts of real life. Why would we teach these subjects independently within a box when life is not like that?

As we roll out dance and drama across schools we are excited for students, parents and teachers to see and experience a multifaceted performing arts programme that truly embodies our Be Ambitious mind set.