Introducing...Bear State of Mind!

In 2010, Walton Arts Center partnered with Trike Theater to create Digging Up Arkansas – an engaging Arkansas history production for students in grades 3rd through 5th.

Now, a new play has been developed for K-2nd grades, called Bear State of Mind!  WAC, along with partners Trike Theatre, NWA playwright Ashley Edwards and songwriter Shannon Wurst, produced Bear State of Mind as a way to help students learn about Arkansas. The play uses experiential theater techniques, music and puppetry to meet Common Core State Learning Standards, including Arkansas history and social studies curriculums.  Pre- and post-show lesson plans, activities and materials were developed by our Learning & Engagement Team for schools, to deepen students’ understandings of Arkansas history.

More than 2,000 area students from 14 schools have already seen Bear State this year, and seeing them experience this show has been great!

The story is about Bear, who travels through three of Arkansas’ geographic regions and meets new friends and uncovers native wildlife, folklore and state symbols. The unique staging of the play makes the most of 5-8 year olds’ natural tendency to explore their surroundings; seating them under a tree canopy in a “Magical Forest” to help facilitate their physical participation in the performance.   

Students at a performance of Bear State of Mind. Photos by Ironside Photograpy.

As the students entered the Bear State campground in Starr Theater, they couldn’t contain their excitement! “Wow!” “It’s so dark!” “Oo!” They turned to their friends and giggled in excitement as they followed their teachers inside.

The children sat on their sleeping bags and tarps around the campfire, full of energy, excitement and wonder. Their heads whipped around each time a new sound came through the speakers, crickets and cicadas chirping, a bird’s song, frogs croaking.

Bear State performers Jason Suel, (top right) Shannon Wurst and Julie Gabel. Photos by Ironside Photography.

Performances like Bear State and DUA allow us to bring these benefits to the classroom, and reach students who may not otherwise have access to these opportunities! A recent study showed that field trips to WAC provide students with long term benefits, like higher tolerance and empathy and a desire to participate in cultural activities. For a synopsis of the recent WAC study, visit EducationNext

Check out these comments from teachers who brought their classes to see Bear State:

  • “One of the best performances I have ever attended with students!” Anne Garrett, Root Elementary, Kindergarten
  • “This was a fantastic performance! Students were actively engaged the entire time.  I can’t wait to get back and discuss the content with them.”  Root Elementary Teacher, Grade 1
  • “I have always enjoyed Walton Arts Center performances, and this was the best – aligned with expectations for student learning.”  Delia Gorder, Root Elementary, Grade 1
  • “Fantastic and engaging show.  Relevant to our kids’ lives and super interesting.  Lots of details & hidden surprises.  Our kids loved it!”  Ms. Ogle, Washington Elementary, Grade 1
  • “Probably the best show we have seen!  Very entertaining and age appropriate!”  Washington Elementary Teacher – Grade 1

Bear State performers Shannon Wurst, Jason Suel and Julie Gabel. Photos by Ironside Photography.