Integrating Social Studies, Values, and the Arts, Music, and Dance
Francis in the Schools is designed to complement and supplement the elementary school history–social science curriculum framework outlined by the California Department of Education. In this framework, children in the earlier grades (K–3) are encouraged to study biographies that bring to life the stories of “people who make a difference”. Francis in the Schools presents the compelling story of Francis of Assisi as a musical drama that emphasizes the core values of empathy, compassion, fairness, cooperation, and love for nature that have made Francis a beloved figure all over the world.
Third, fourth, and fifth grade curricula in California schools include, in their review of local, regional, and state history, the study of the California missions, which were founded by Franciscan friars in the 1700s. The geography of California is filled with place names drawn from the world of Francis: San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Bernardino, and even Los Angeles.
Our program tells the remarkable story of Francis’s life and explains why Franciscan friars, inspired by his message, crossed the ocean and endured tremendous hardships. They hoped to bring to the New World Francis’s message, which had changed their own lives: a message of unity, brotherhood, and love for all.
Francis in the Schools is designed to make Francis’s story real to the children, not only through our lively Following Francis play, but also by serving the children as our honored guests throughout all the activities of the Faire.
Values Education and Social and Emotional Learning
Increasingly, educators across the nation have sought ways to nurture social and emotional skills, not merely by teaching them, but by modeling them in the classroom and elsewhere. There is a growing recognition that students with strong, clear values become resilient, dedicated, life-long learners. Many school districts, including Oakland Unified, have adopted programs that strive to aid in the development of character, social awareness, and interpersonal skills. Francis in the Schools brings to life many of these crucially important skills.
The play Following Francis provides rich opportunities for children to take the perspective of another, witness deeply felt empathy, appreciate diversity, and recognize and understand social and ethical norms. Many scenes reinforce these principles in songs. The Faire includes creative activities and non-competitive group games, where all participants cooperate, with no winners or losers, only the joy of collaborating.
Theater Arts, Music, and Dance
Most schools barely have the time for, or adequate funding to cover the costs of, important enrichment programs. Subjects like theater arts, music, and dance are challenging to afford and integrate into the learning experience. Our musical plays offer all three of these components. Actors, singers, and dancers interact with the audience throughout the play, inviting the children to participate as the historical events unfold. At the Faire, and sometimes right after the play, the children learn one or two of our inspiring and fun songs and dances.
Is the Program Religious?
Francis in the Schools does not present religious tenets to influence anyone’s beliefs. The program portrays the universal values of love and service to humanity lived by Francis, which have inspired people around the world for 800 years.
Our schoolchildren usually study the lives of important historical figures who are associated with particular religions such as Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, and Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu leader. Though Francis expressed his message in the context of his time, place, and Christian religion, the values are universal, transcending time, place, and creed. The stories of King, Gandhi, and most certainly Francis, are worth sharing, independent of any religious element, because they allow us to study inspiring figures who have shaped world history.