Integrating Creativity and Imagination Into the School Day

Reflecting on our Partnership with Barrel of Monkeys

In managing a network of 31 public schools, we see highly effective teachers and leaders as driving forces for transformative change. Ideally the teaching and learning that teachers and leaders drive should be supported by curricular and extracurricular enhancements that support the development of the “whole child”. This includes tutoring and mentor support, athletics and clubs, social work, or arts and cultural programming.

The Barrel of Monkeys residency has been a part of school programming for a number of years in our network. This program builds upon the reading curriculum to give students an outlet for their creative voice and see their imaginations in action.

“AUSL has been a joy for us to partner and collaborate with over the years because of how amazingly bright and creative the students are!” – Sha Norma, Program Director, Barrel of Monkeys

How The Residency Works: Interviews with the People Involved

Tell us about the structure of the program:
Barrel of Monkeys uses improv, drama, and creative writing as an arts integration and instructional tool through a six-week residency. The residency takes place in two classrooms per school with third, fourth, or fifth graders. Five teaching artists work with the students in each classroom for ninety minutes, which allows for one-on-one instruction and support. The residency ends with a culminating performance where Barrel of Monkeys teaching artists perform the stories that students have written throughout the program.

– Elly Leman, Senior Manager of Partnerships & Initiatives at AUSL

What impact have you seen it have on your students?
Students have been able to express themselves in multiple modalities and are engaged in the creative writing process weekly. Students are able to explain persuasive writing and theatrical plays in relationship to their own work. Every week students are excited and engaged in preparation for Barrel of Monkeys.

What feedback have you heard from the teachers about having the residency in their classrooms?
The third grade teachers enjoy how chunked out the activities are so that students don’t lose interest! The facilitation is done effectively so students are able to have fun, but everyone stays safe and learning at the same time.

– LaShawn Whitney, Dvorak School of Excellence Principal

How does it adapt to the needs of the students or your classroom? Is it integrated into the curriculum?
The Barrel of Monkeys teachers have been flexible to give each and every student their own support. Whether it be transcribing for students who are struggling to record their thoughts, or providing questions to push students thinking, Barrel Of Monkeys allows for every student to have access to the activity.

How has this program impacted your students?
Students have been able to express themselves with more creativity and confidence in their writing. They have been able to push themselves to tap into their artistic side and have shown appreciation for one another’s unique ideas.

– Morgan Qin, Dvorak School of Excellence Third Grade Teacher

Bringing to Life a Student’s Imagination

Teachers from Barrel of Monkeys come to Chicago Public School classrooms to teach creative writing to students and then select stories to feature in a showcase. One of our schools, the Dvorak School of Excellence, has worked with Barrel of Monkeys for the past four years. This year, their students’ short story work was on display at our network’s showcase where the Barrel of Monkeys teachers brought their creative work to life through short plays.

Thank you to our Barrel of Monkey teachers: Joan Figarella (Lead Teacher), Rawson Vint, Hailey Palmer, Jean Carlos Claudio, and Jasmine Jordan!