Neighborhood Bridges


Program Overview

Developed by the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, Neighborhood Bridges is a comprehensive program of storytelling and creative drama for elementary, middle and high schools. Curriculum based, it develops children’s critical and cultural literacy, their vocabulary, writing and communication skills. It is recognized by the Department of Education’s Office of Improvement and Innovation as an effective model for integrating the arts with standards-based education programs, Neighborhood Bridges (Bridges) is being requested across the country.

In January 2008, the Institute surpassed a lengthy waiting list of schools and organizations across the nation to be chosen, trained and recognized as a satellite site to bring Bridges to Berks County schools. There are only 13 sites nationwide at this time.  The approval followed a screening and interview process of the organization and key personnel of the Institute of the Arts. This was followed by an intensive training of our teaching artists by CTC.  To maintain the integrity of the program, ongoing assessments and observations by Bridges Captains are scheduled in each classroom.

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Founded in the fall of 1997 by Peter Brosius, artistic director of The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis (CTC), and Jack Zipes, Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, The Neighborhood Bridges program of The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis (CTC) has been studied over the course of 10 years and has been approved through by the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Bridges is a 32-week program of storytelling and creative drama for elementary, middle and high school students intended to help them:

  • develop their abilities to write, speak, and think clearly;
  • improve their achievement in reading and writing; and
  • achieve state and national standards for theatre;
  • recognize their capacity to become storytellers of their own lives;

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Program Details

A typical two-hour Bridges session is composed of four parts:

The Fantastic Binominal: The teaching artist and students spontaneously create a story through free association based on two arbitrarily chosen nouns and a preposition. Then students create their own stories and write them in their Bridges notebook. Each week 2 to 3 students are asked to present their stories to their peers. The teaching artist and classroom teacher coach the students in using gestures and voice to dramatize their story.

Storytelling: The teaching artist and classroom teacher each tell a tale, often two different versions of the same tale, or tales related to each other. The tales are drawn from an anthology provided with the Bridges curriculum. Over the course of the year, tales are presented from several genres, including fairy tales, pourquois tales, peace tales and myths. The stories are followed by discussion designed to help students think critically about the content of the tales and the implications for their lives.

Skits and Theatre Games: Students work in small groups to create and perform brief skits based on the stories they have just heard. The teaching artist leads students in games designed to develop their skills in areas such as focus, diction, gestures, and collaboration.

Writing Games: Students participate in a reflective writing exercises to solidify the day’s learning and incorporate the creative energy of their skits into their own stories.           

Additionally, it is imperative to the success of the students in this program, that one hour per week of planning is allotted to the classroom teacher to work with the teaching artist.  Common planning time with both teachers enables the integration of the program into the everyday curriculum and conversely the ability to infuse specific needs of the classroom into Bridges.  This is in addition to the two-hours teaching time of Bridges.

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The Impact

  • The impact of the Bridges program is assessed by formal student and teacher evaluations conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI)*.
  • 37% of English language learners in Neighborhood Bridges classrooms met or exceeded state standards compared to 22% of the students in the comparison group on the 2007 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test in reading.
  • Exceeding goal, 95% of students who participated in Bridges in 2007-2008 met the benchmark for student achievement in writing.
  • More than 94% of classroom teachers who participated in Bridges in 2007-2008 indicated that students’ acting, storytelling, oral communication skills, attitude towards writing, and use of imagination and descriptive details in writing improved during the course of the program.
  • Local Impact: Since 2008, Similar results have been proven locally utilizing PA standards with Bridges in the Reading Schools through their partnership with the Yocum Institute for Arts Education.

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For more information, contact Susan Rohn, Executive Director at 610-376-1576 ext. 203 or email her at

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