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Transcendence partners with Glen Ellen’s Dunbar School

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Students at Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen are midway through an innovative new 12-week integrated arts curriculum featuring English language development courses for students in first through fifth grades.

Sonoma-based Transcendence Theatre Company partnered with the Sonoma Valley Unified School District as part of the nonprofit arts organization’s ongoing effort to foster community engagement opportunities and access to arts education.

After the outdoor stage at Dunbar school was destroyed in the 2017 fires, Transcendence (along with Landmark Winery and the Rotary Club) contributed to the rebuilding of a new outdoor stage for the elementary school. Soon after, Transcendence actors and crew members expressed to school officials their desire to help create a new theater arts program for the school’s students.

Last month, more than 120 Dunbar students began participating in curriculum and coursework designed to encourage artistic and cultural expression for improving literacy, creative thinking and self-expression for young students, especially English language learners.

“It’s our mission to design and provide education engagement opportunities so young people can transcend their circumstances and create a more inclusive and empathetic culture,” said Nikko Kimzin, TTC’s director of education and community outreach.

TTC teaching artists AJ Ackleson and Erika Conaway now visit the Dunbar campus three days a week for 45 minutes a session to work with students and teachers.

The program will conclude in the spring with an original stage production performed by students. An annual presentation of a melodrama, featuring Dunbar fifth graders, was a school tradition until 2018.

The program also includes two professional development days for teachers at Dunbar Elementary School, with the goal of helping to elevate their skills in arts integration, equity and inclusion training, according to Kimzin.

“We believe that arts education is a right for all students,” she said in the press materials announcing the program. “We are committed to continuing our efforts of providing education engagement opportunities for all the diverse communities that make up Sonoma.”

Dunbar Elementary School is located at 11700 Dunbar Road in Glen Ellen. Since 2011, Transcendence productions have been staged in Jack London State Historic Park.

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