English Service-Learning Project Brings Shakespearean Fun to Young Students

By Erin Ryan |

Boise State undergraduates once again will bring the wonder of Shakespeare to local elementary school kids through a unique outreach program called “Shake It Up After School.” The innovative service-learning project is part of associate professor Matthew Hansen’s upper-division Shakespeare course in the Department of English, and it works specifically with Title I schools that serve economically depressed and culturally diverse populations.

“This project introduces and seeks to demystify an often culturally and artistically intimidating body of knowledge to a population for whom Shakespeare can seem distant and out-of-reach,” Hansen said. “It also enables my students to explore with their young collaborators the artistic, historical and cultural importance of Shakespeare and to challenge assumptions that Shakespeare is a commodity reserved for cultural elites.”

Over the course of six weeks, students at Lowell Elementary School and William Howard Taft Elementary School in Boise are reading, discussing and rehearsing a one-hour version of Shakespeare’s epic, “Hamlet,” under the direction and guidance of Hansen and his class.

Whatever the play, the experience empowers young students by enhancing their vocabularies, confidence and teamwork skills, he said, adding, “And it’s a tremendous amount of fun.”  

Shake It Up After School culminates in final performances that are free and open to the public, though seating is limited and attendees are required to sign in upon entering the schools.

  • The Lowell Shakespeareans present “Hamlet.” Lowell Elementary School, 1507 N. 28th St., Boise. 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 15.
  • W.H. Taft Shakespeareans present “Hamlet.” William Howard Taft Elementary School, 3722 N. Anderson St., Boise. 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday, April 28.

Shake it Up After School is supported by grants from the City of Boise’s Department of Arts and History and the Charlotte Martin Foundation.

For more information and to follow the progress of the students, visit the project blog at http://shakeitupafterschool.blogspot.com/.

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