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Beaming with Pride: ExpandED Kids Perform "The Lion King"

Therese Workman

Therese Workman is Senior Manager of Digital Content Strategies at ExpandED Schools.

PS 186/NIA Performs "The Lion King"

During my time at ExpandED Schools, I’ve had the privilege to visit many of our amazing schools and see the magic of expanded learning in action. When I visited PS 186/NIA Brooklyn last week for the school’s production of The Lion King, I witnessed an entire auditorium full of kids completely rapt by the spectacular talent of their own peers.

Paper vines and hand-drawn exotic animals covered the walls and entryways, transforming the room into a majestic jungle. The student actors’ beautifully crafted masks, costumes and face paint were breathtaking as they danced, leapt and sang in the glow of colored lights.

Beyond the beautiful set design, amazing performances, dazzling lighting and costumes, something else left me speechless – the way that Assistant Principal Dana Marie Ragaglia spoke to the audience at the end of the performance. She took the time to acknowledge everyone in the room – from the school staff and NIA program directors who helped design the expanded day course curriculum that would allow kids to have these types of enrichments, to the students behind the scenes who worked the lights and sound cues, to the parents who spent evenings helping to build sets. Her praise of the group effort highlighted what our expanded learning model is all about – collaboration that leads to something extraordinary.  

 [Click here to see more photos]

After the performance, the cast and crew (still in costume and buzzing with adrenaline) told me that they learned more than line memorization and stage direction – they learned about each other and themselves. They exceeded their own expectations of performing. Shy kids projected their voices. Extroverted kids looked into their characters’ own complex emotions. Arianite, a 5th grader who played the villain, said, “I thought a lot about my character while I was acting. I think that Scar wasn’t born bad -- he just wanted to be surrounded by more friends, but did it in a selfish way.” Third grader Leandra, who played the young Simba, shared that she was surprised at just how effective the death scene was. “When I read the script, I never thought that it would actually end up so dramatic. I didn’t think we [performers] would all have those feelings. [Play director] Ms. Colavito said I showed so much emotion. I even started to cry!”

Director Ms. Renee Colavito’s own expectations of the student performers was already high – she teaches them during the day and knows their strengths and potential. One thing that did surprise her was the level of professionalism these young actors and crew members displayed. “Students like Arianite are the reason why I teach,” she said. “He overcame his own obstacles and self-consciousness to try something new. He never let that struggle interfere with his performance. He put his passion and effort in and transformed. It makes me proud.”

While it may have been Simba who was named king of the jungle, everyone left that auditorium feeling as if they were wearing a crown.




This is such an amazing article!! The Lion King production is a true representation of our collaboration and efforts in striving for excellence – Congratulations to the entire PS 186 / NIA / ExpandED Schools Collaborative!


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