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ARTS Partners has the Golden Ticket! 

How do you build a set of experiences that transcend the classroom and bring an entire district together to celebrate pure imagination? You renew a past partnership and bring students and the theatre together, better than ever! The Arts Reaching and Teaching in Schools (ARTS) Partnership is back at Gates Chili, and this year, students in grades 2-4 interacted with "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory", a musical based on the Roald Dahl story of the same name, hosted by the Rochester Broadway Theatre League (RBTL).


The program adapts themes from traveling Broadway shows into classroom and group lessons across all subject areas. This year, GC teachers used the central themes of imagination and creativity from "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" to connect to the existing curriculum and seamlessly integrate arts education into everyday experiences that are consistent across the entire district. Students had an opportunity to attend the show at the Auditorium Theatre in November. Student artwork based on the lessons was on display at the Auditorium Theatre, where it was seen by thousands of show-goers.


Holly Valentine, the RBTL’s Director of Education and a former Gates Chili teacher, said that the themes in “Charlie "are a natural fit for elementary school classrooms, “this show...what a wonderful opportunity for all of us to renew our imagination of how we want this world to be,” said Valentine. After the COVID-19 pandemic put the partnership on pause for 2020-21, Valentine said the story of "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” is exactly what students need.


“Letting them think about what the world could be—that’s what we’re doing with this story this year,” Valentine explained. “We're bringing back a sense of hope and wonder that's been taken away from them. "


Walt Disney Elementary School art teacher Kelly Hanning said that the theme of “pure imagination” captured students' attention and helped them envision a world outside of their everyday life.


"We're presenting them with the essential question: how does imagination enrich our lives?” Hanning said. In her second-grade classes, students created maps of places that can only exist in their imaginations. Third-grade students made blueprints of magical rooms in a Wonka chocolate factory.


At Neil Armstrong Elementary School, fourth-grade teacher Angela Rogers taught her students to engage with the lyrics of a song from the musical and to interpret what they think the lyrics may mean. Students drew pictures to illustrate the lyrics and presented them to their classmates.


“The kids really pick up on what's happening in the story, and they really identify with the characters...I am amazed at what they are able to come up with from the lyrics,” said Rogers.


The ARTS Partners program represents the dedication to creativity and arts education in Gates Chili. The program began through an informal after-school club, then transitioned into the classroom, and eventually building-wide at Walt Disney Elementary School. In 2016,the partnership between RBTL and GCCSD became districtwide.


In 2019, GCCSD received the Magna Award for Equity by the National School Boards Association for the ARTS Partners program for removing barriers to theatre and the arts and increasing access and engagement for students.


Said Erin Ugine, director of elementary education, "We hope [with this program] for ‘ah ha!’ moments from students and’s the type of experience that makes teachers say, this is why I went into teaching.”