School of Education News

Isthmus spotlights Halverson’s artistic outreach efforts via Whoopensocker

June 01, 2018

The Isthmus newspaper recently put the spotlight on Whoopensocker, an innovative arts education initiative that works with students in local elementary schools. The program was launched with the help of UW-Madison’s Erica Halverson.

The report is headlined: “Imaginations running wild: Theatre LILA’s ‘Whoopensocker!’ brings children’s words to the stage.”

In 1998, Halverson founded the Chicago-based nonprofit Barrel of Monkeys, a creative arts group that teaches creative writing to children in elementary school -- and turns their work into performance pieces. In 2015, Halverson launched a Madison version of the innovative artistic outreach program with Beau Johnson and Amanda Farrar, calling it Whoopensocker.

Erica Halverson
This partnership between the School of Education and Theatre LILA sends teaching artists into elementary classrooms to engage students in writing, performing and other forms of active learning. These meetings are once per week, for 90 minutes, over six weeks. At the end of the six-week program, the teaching artists turn several of the students’ writings into vaudeville-style plays or musical numbers, which are then performed for the whole school.

“We take this work seriously,” Halverson, a professor with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction, tells Isthmus in its report. “We don’t see it as cute or something to say ‘Oh, isn’t it precious?’ We treat it like honest source material, and kids take so much value from having professional artists take their work seriously.”

This year, Whoopensocker went to Lincoln, Sandburg, Thoreau and Emerson elementary schools in Madison, with 300 students participating directly in classroom programming. Similarly, an after-school club program was piloted with Sandburg Elementary.

Whoopensocker, which is now part of the UW Community Arts Collaboratory, which is housed within the School of Education’s office of Education Outreach and Partnerships, will be performed at the Overture Center’s Rotunda Stage on June 1 at 6:30 p.m., and on June 3 at noon and 3 p.m. Admission is free.

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