DELAND, Fla. – School’s out for the summer, but the stage is always in style, no matter the season.
Enter Athens Theatre in DeLand. It’s where kids in grades K-12 can participate in summer camps centering on different aspects of the performing arts.
The classes featured have something for every student, offering behind-the-scenes and centerstage opportunities. Campers can rehearse and perform in one of the fully-staged shows put on at the end of camp or hone in on particular skill sets such as improv, song, dance, auditions or tech and costuming design.
Angelyn Rhode, manager of the theatre’s Youth Academy, said getting involved in the creative realm, and especially in the performing arts, isn’t just a great way to light up star students. It’s a great way to light up their neurons.
“It is scientifically proven that children that are involved in the performing arts in any way, shape or form, for even a small portion of their life, their brain is going to light up and the neurons are going to fire and it’s going to improve their lives socially, emotionally and cognitively,” Rhode said.
Multiple studies compiled by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences show participation in the arts leads to “improvements in students’ standardized writing scores, reductions in disciplinary infractions, increases in students’ compassion for others, increased school engagement, improved attendance, and higher college aspirations.”
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The summer camps are broken up according to age to help facilitate the different development needs of the students.
“When they are younger, it’s important for them to be brave and try something new. When they’re older, within that age bracket, it’s important for them to be the leader and (learn) the hazards of responsibility,” Rhode said. “And so each age group, we really think carefully about... what’s going to make a good experience for all the children so that they can learn and have fun together in a safe, social environment more than anything.”
While all students have opportunities to participate in the variety of courses crafted around particular sectors of the theatre, they’re also offered classes distinctive to their age groups.
For instance, the younger students have classes that revolve around franchises, like Dr. Seuss, “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” and “The Descendants,” while the older students are explore thematic elements of theatre. They are tackling the subject of “history” in musicals, taking a closer look at “Hamilton,” “SIX,” and “Come From Away,” three musicals which transport them to the American Revolution, the Tudor era during the lives of Henry VII’s six wives and a nation ravaged by 9/11.
Rhode added the skills students take away from camp have also been crucial as the world continues to deal with and reel from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even though we have noticed a little bit of a shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to do what we can as teachers in the classroom to make sure that they are listening and following instructions but also getting a nice, creative experience where they can grow and learn,” Rhode said.
Class prices run from $145 to $450 and there are discount codes offered for those enrolling children in multiple camps, those enrolling siblings and any Volusia County educator with a valid school ID. Classes through the rest of the summer are still available.
Fall registration is also open for those interested in enrolling students in private lessons, after-school classes or Saturday youth sessions after summer is over.
For more information on the camps and classes offered at the Youth Academy, click here.