VAN BUREN — The Walton Arts Center’s statewide Digging Up Arkansas tour began in April and reached an estimated 14,500 third- through fifth-grade students by the time the last note of its spring tour resounded in the halls of King Elementary School in Van Buren on Tuesday (May 22).
The original play based on Arkansas history caused students to care more about the history of the state and helped them have a better understanding of facts and concepts relating to Arkansas history. Even the state’s teachers are reporting that they are learning more from Digging up Arkansas.
The concept for the play was developed by the WAC’s Learning team, a group of Northwest Arkansas artists, playwright and educator Mike Thomas of Fayetteville and Trike Theatre, formerly of Bentonville but now of Fayetteville.
In the play, three writers from the Federal Writer’s Project (Jules Taylor, Justin Cunningham and Jason Suel) invite students to explore and organize historical artifacts before President Roosevelt’s scheduled arrival in Arkansas. The writers unearth Arkansas mysteries and demonstrate how communication, cooperation, courage and culture have shaped the state’s history.
Local Digging Up Arkansas benefactors include Bob and Becky Alexander, Wade Burnside, Ken and RuAnn Ewing, Murray and Judy Harris, Ann and Dr. Morriss Henry, Rich and Kristin Kley, Greg and Hannah Lee, Bob and Linda McMath and Tom and Susan Schallhorn.
Taylor, the only lady member of the cast, said she really likes it when the teachers see that the kids are learning in this fashion.
“Hopefully the teachers will incorporate this type of learning into their lessons,” she said.
Keeping it short and to the point kept the kids’ attention through the Van Buren event, even though the end of the school year was within reach.