COMMUNITY PROGRAMS

Santa Fe Improv engages with our community through two programs:

  • Teacher Training Initiative
  • Life Skills for Kids and Teens

These two programs are an integrated approach. We teach improv to kids and teens directly, and we train teachers in using improv in the classroom to facilitate learning.

Here’s why we are doing this….

  • For students: while kids and teens are learning social, emotional, and executive function skills, it doesn’t feel like school – it’s just a new way to play and have fun.
  • For teachers: being able to engage students and actually teach reduces anxiety and increases job satisfaction.
  • For administrators: improv is inexpensive to program – no sets, no costumes, no computers, no lights, no sound systems, no scripts to memorize. All we need is a room with space to move around and a door that closes.

The problem…

Teachers are burned out, and students are anxious and disengaged.

  • According to a 2022 Gallup poll:
  • 44% of American K-12 teachers feel burned out often or always.
  • 29.8% say they’d leave their job if they could get a higher paying job.
  • 21.4% think about staying home from school because they’re too tired.
  • In New Mexico specifically, 33.7% teachers say they don’t have as much enthusiasm for their job as when they started.

On the student side of the equation, New Mexico deals with a growing absentee problem. And, when students are in attendance, they may be struggling with environmental stressors and anxiety that lead them to tune out or act out.

A 2019 study conducted specifically with middle and high school age youth, across a ten- week period, published by Dr. Peter Felsman, indicated the following:

  • Teens screened for social phobia showed reduced anxiety after improv training.
  • Reduced anxiety was correlated with improved social skills, hope, and creativity.
  • Students who were more engaged in the program showed the greatest benefit.
  • Students agreed that improvisational training was useful in life outside of class.

We believe that teachers want to enjoy teaching, and students (whether they realize it or not) want to enjoy learning. What’s needed is a way to make teaching and learning fun at the same time.

Teachers need an easy to use, low-cost intervention that is efficient in re-engaging students. This “improv intervention” can prevent further learning loss and help close the growing knowledge, skills, and achievement gap.

The approach…

To address this need, SFI is launching our Teacher Training Initiative. We are looking for 12 substitute teachers who have been teaching for at least two years and have a NM teaching credential to learn how to use improv techniques in their classrooms.

This program will consist of 8 consecutive Saturday workshops, 3 hours in length (taught at our theater in the Siler/Rufina district). This learning process will be mostly experiential but will include some didactic portions. The program is built on top of research-driven methodology published by Santa Fe Improv’s Artistic Director, Eric Weiss, which indicates that as little as six exposures (1.5 hour sessions) to improv “can increase tolerance of uncertainty, and enhance playfulness, self- compassion, sense of joy, and connection to others.”

Participants in the Teacher Training Initiative don’t need a background in improv or theater. They will learn improv warmups, games, scene work, and cool downs. Furthermore they will be instructed on how to make these exercises work in the classroom—even with large groups of students. Teachers will leave this program with the training and materials to succeed once they’re back in class. And they will have follow-up support from the creative team at SFI so they can refine their approach in the field.

What if…?

  • You’re a teacher who has an hour-long block in an after school program or free period and you want to engage them for an extended time period over multiple weeks? You will leave this class with a lesson plan for that.
  • You want to do some team building to bring your students together on the first day of class? There’s a lesson plan for that, too.
  • You only have 5 minutes at the top of class to build rapport and bring your class into alignment? Do an improv warmup to get them focused
  • You need a quick way to jog creativity and spontaneity? Use a quick improv game to ignite the learning process.
  • You want to help your students become better public speakers? There’s an improv monologue exercise to bring forth confidence and poise.
  • You want to catalyze better collaboration in groups? Use an improv team building exercise to drive convergent thinking.

Whether its gaining back control of the classroom, creating rapport, building trust, sparking creativity, alleviating social anxiety or just having fun. Improv will help.

The outcome…

The effects of this program should be two-fold:

  1. The teachers will “experience less burnout, increased tolerance of uncertainty, and enhanced playfulness, compassion, sense of joy, and connection to others” (Katzman, Weiss et al). When these teachers bring improv to the classroom, they will affect change in their students.
  2. The students will experience “increases in social skills, hope, creative self-efficacy, comfort performing for others, and willingness to make mistakes, along with marginal decreases in symptoms of depression” (Felsman et al).

If this program sounds like a good idea to you, consider becoming a donor. Your donation will help us to fund this pilot program and scale up to improve the lives of teachers and students all across New Mexico.

You can donate by clicking the “Donate” button in the footer of this page. Thank you.

Sources

  • Peter Felsman, Colleen M. Seifert, Joseph A. Himle, The use of improvisational theater training to reduce social anxiety in adolescents, The Arts in Psychotherapy, Volume 63, 2019, Pages 111-117.
  • Katzman, J. , Weiss, E. , Ojeda, C. , Katzman, W. and Felsman, P. (2023) A Pilot Experience with Improvisational Theater to Reduce Burnout in Psychiatric Residency. Creative Education, 14, 1094-1110. doi: 10.4236/ce.2023.145070.