March is Theatre in Our Schools Month! It’s a time to celebrate the power of theatre within our school systems, as well as advocate for arts education and inclusion all year round. 

The benefits of theatre education are varied and vast and do not all revolve around fostering creativity – although that’s a major gain. No, this type of education helps to create well-rounded students in a variety of ways, honing numerous skills that are critical to success on and off the stage. Let’s explore the top eight (of many!) reasons why theatre education truly matters. 

8 Reasons Why Theatre Education Matters in Schools

1. Creates Social Tolerance and Empathy

According to the Journal of Civic Society published in 2019, “audience-based participation in the arts and personal participation in creating art is linked to higher levels of civic engagement and social tolerance.” After all, theatre immerses a person into the life of another – helping that actor, audience, or crew member learn more about the struggles of others, either historical, present-day, or fictional. 

Greater civic engagement and social tolerance lead to higher levels of social intelligence, empathy, and emotional regulation – all of which are critical to interpersonal relationships, both personally and professionally. 

2. Encourages Positive Behavior 

Through the creation of an open, welcoming community and through the education of the hardships of others – real or fictional – theatre education encourages positive behavior in students. It’s like a domino reaction: theatre fosters empathy, which then fosters better behavior.

According to findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health by Kenneth Elpus, published in 2013, arts students were 20% less likely to have an out-of-school suspension for each year of arts studied. 

In another 2018 study from the Kinder Institute’s Houston Education Research Consortium, participation in the arts has been connected to reducing the proportion of students in a school receiving disciplinary infractions in K-8 schools. 

3. Builds Confidence 

Arts education, at its core, helps students to make creative decisions, take risks, trust in their own ideas, improve self-esteem, and cultivate a positive sense of self. All of this leads to greater confidence – not only on stage but in other academic settings, extracurriculars, and life outside of school. 

According to Capturing Student and Teacher Creative Growth through the AfterSchool JumpStart Theatre Program, Year Two Report, 2017, “At-risk middle school students engaged in an after-school musical theatre program demonstrate improved confidence, creativity, resiliency, responsibility, collaboration, and sense of community.”

But it’s not all about the students! Confidence is built for educators and administrators, too. Creating curriculums, engaging students in creative work, and cultivating a sense of community, lead to greater self-esteem in the adult educators – providing a better experience all around.

4. Fosters Creativity and Out-of-The-Box Thinking

Perhaps the most well-known benefit of theatre is its ability to foster creativity, imagination, and out-of-the-box thinking. 

Theatre gives students an outlet for self-expression, allowing them to rid themselves of conventional academic structure to get more creative in at least one class or one extracurricular. In this way, students are exploring new ideas, perspectives, and ways of doing things – which help them to develop their own voices

Additionally, academics are becoming more and more tech-heavy as time goes on. Theatre eschews technology in many regards, allowing for a kinesthetic education that doesn’t happen behind a screen. 

5. Improves Critical Thinking and Reading Comprehension 

Alongside teaching students to think outside the box, theatre also helps them to think critically, improving their problem-solving abilities. 

Whether a student is learning about the technical aspects of theatre – blocking, perspective, lighting and sound, balance – or the practical bits of theatre – acting, emoting, singing, dancing – these experiences boost critical thinking, allowing students time to be more careful and intentional when observing the world and their surroundings. 

As it relates to reading comprehension, actors, crew members, and other people involved in a theatre program need to know their materials backward and forward – whether that’s to find deeper meaning in character work or to truly nail and find the emotional response behind a lighting or sound cue. This, in turn, boosts reading comprehension, which will come in handy in a variety of academic settings. Additionally, jumping into historical or complex works will boost a student’s vocabulary and awareness of historical events. 

A report by Americans for the Arts states that “young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair, or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.” Win-win-win! 

6. Fosters General Academic Achievement 

The numbers don’t lie as they relate to theatre involvement and its correlation to general academic achievement and graduation. A few statistics of note: 

  • In a 2015 study from the College Board, students who took four years of art classes in high school scored an average of 92 points higher on their SATs than students who took only one-half year or less. 
  • According to the National Endowment for the Arts: The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth, published in 2012, “high school students who earn multiple arts credits are five times more likely to graduate than students with low involvement in the arts.” 
  • The Youth Theatre Journal, published in 2011, states that “fourth-grade students whose language arts and social studies curricula integrated theatre into their classes are almost 100% more likely to pass a state-based language arts test.” 

In short, theatre education boosts academic performance – from higher test scores to higher graduation rates, better language and motor skills, reading comprehension, and more. 

7. Helps Encourage Attendance and Engagement 

We’ve already seen the facts: kids involved in theatre graduate at higher rates than those not involved in theatre. And you can’t graduate without attending class.

But why are theatre students attending class more regularly? Because they’ve cultivated a community, and are truly engaged in the work. In fact, integrating theatre within other subjects – math, science, history – may reach students who might not otherwise be engaged in their academic classwork. Thus, theatre education can be a huge motivator for students to attend school, leading to greater outcomes down the line. 

8. Develops Soft Skills for Career Readiness 

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘soft skills’ – but what does it mean, really? Well, soft skills are those intangible abilities that make an employee desirable to a company that doesn’t involve things learned in the traditional classroom setting (i.e., database management, accounting, marketing, and the like). Theatre teaches these soft skills through a variety of mediums.

A few of the most commonly needed soft skills within a professional environment are collaboration, enthusiasm, the ability to listen, delegation, problem-solving, cooperation, resiliency, and communication. You don’t get many, if any, of these skills in a lecture hall. But you do get them by collaborating on a theatre project or putting on a show with your team. 

How On The Stage Can Help Your Program

Here at On The Stage (OTS), we are passionate advocates for theatre education. With our platform, thousands of organizations and schools are empowered with ticketing, box office, marketing, fundraising, and reporting tools in one robust platform – for free.

On top of that, with OTS Junior Administrators, you can engage your students in the behind-the-scenes processes, giving them hands-on experience that helps with career readiness. As many educators know, preparing students for the business side of theatre is frequently overlooked in high school and collegiate theatre. With our easy-to-use platform, educators are able to open the management of the platform to students, teaching them the business side of arts on top of performance and technology. 

Learn how your students can gain applicable skills with OTS. Book a personalized demo today.

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