Magician Bill Blagg picks a member of the audience to help him to a magic trick during “The Science of Magic,” part ofthe ArtsBridge field trip season Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The nonprofit engages about 35,000 students every year with live theater performances that educate as well as entertain. COURTESY OF Chris Savas for ArtsBridge Foundation.

Arts foundation offers entertainment, education through field trips

“Learning doesn’t only happen inside these four walls.”

That’s a sentiment Liss Maynard, principal of Clarkdale Elementary, has held for pretty much her whole career. That’s why her entire school takes about four field trips a year with an annual staple being one offered through the ArtsBridge Foundation. Housed at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the nonprofit’s mission is to “expand arts education for all Georgia students.”

The annual field trip season kicked off Wednesday, Oct. 23 with “The Science of Magic.” Magician Bill Blagg educated students using scientific methods, a little silliness and some really cool sleight of hand.

“This is our sixth year of partnering with ArtsBridge,” said Maynard. “We are blessed that there’s an organization that provides our students an opportunity to experience the arts, the architecture and a different perspective at little or no cost to our Title I school.” (“Title I schools” are those that receive special federal funds because of their high number of students in poor households.)

ArtsBridge was created 12 years ago as the nonprofit education division of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. It engages nearly 35,000 students annually with subjects spanning music, math, dance, science, live theater, literature, social studies and poetry. Through a partnership with Action Ministries, attendees receive a snack as they leave the hour-long performance. It even offers grants to help with transportation for Title I schools, and some of the shows are free.

The experience aims to educate the “whole student.” On the most basic level, it’s a show. And before the performance, Angela Farr Schiller explains to the kids what’s going to happen and gives some basics of live theater etiquette.

“Do we lean back and put our feet on the seats in front of us?” she asked to a resounding, “No!”

“Do we take our shoes off?”

“Do we hold a conversation with our neighbor?”

Again, a loud chorus of “No!”

Schiller has a doctorate in theater performance studies from Stanford University. She’s a former professor at Kennesaw State University, where she helped produce and lead community engagement for theater events. But the opportunity to ensure the “A” in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education is well represented led her to ArtsBridge.

“For most of the students, this is a new experience. Through the arts they are learning how science is part of their everyday life,” she said. “And the venue itself is a teaching point. The architecture and exposure to this space is another type of visual art.”

A committee chooses the shows for the field trips.

“We seek to offer something educational and entertaining to every age level,” said Jennifer Dobbs, ArtsBridge executive director. “The field trips are tied to the Georgia Standards of Excellence and we invite public, private and home-schooled students, teachers and parents to experience curriculum that best suits their curriculum and interests.”

The season goes through March with most tickets running $10.

As Blagg amazed and delighted the children, the adults got into the act as well. He made a teacher float in mid air.

“He didn’t say how he did it,” said Maynard. “But I’m sure there was more science involved than he’ll admit.”

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