What it takes to engage

A shy 4-year-old joins the group for the first time. While another begins to show curiosity in books and stories. And still a third becomes a master of rhythms. What’s happening in that classroom?

A reserved 3-year-old finds a way to express his feelings. While his 5-year-old sister has a new found delight in role playing. What did it take to draw them out?

Performing arts-integrated teaching techniques are proven to inspire young children and improve their ability to learn critical life skills.

That’s why, for more than 30 years, schools across the country have invited the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts into their classrooms for 1- and 8- week residences designed to help teachers integrate arts into their lesson plans.

All Wolf Trap Institute learning experiences align with specific curriculum objectives in areas such as cognitive, social, and physical development. Children also gain an interest in the performing arts and, along with it, a sense of their own ability to imagine and express themselves.

Just a few examples of performing arts at work in the classroom


By making shapes using straight and curvy lines, children literally embody the concept of geometry—increasing both math and physical development.


Puppets give teachers tools for positive classroom management and encourage dialogue with children. Relatable puppets help demonstrate how to make good choices, relate well to others, solve problems, and take responsibility.




As children participate in drama and role-play, they learn a variety of skills, including how to follow directions, take turns, verbalize feelings, work cooperatively, and understand different viewpoints.


Music teaches children comparisons, a critical tool for math and language arts. For example, sounds can be high or low, fast or slow. Music also helps kids recognize and recreate rhythmic patterns, an essential component of both speaking and movement and a math skill.


Dance is all about patterns, the basis for algebraic thinking and a widely recognized building block for future success in math. As children follow pathways and create upward/downward movements, they literally embody patterns.


As children create a beginning, middle, and end to a story, they acquire concepts that underpin reading, writing, and logical thinking.

In addition to building educational skills, the Wolf Trap Institute instills a love of learning and a love of the performing arts—which both bring a sense of wonder and infinite possibility.

Outside the classroom

Field trip performances

The Wolf Trap Institute presents music, drama, and dance presentations for classes of preschool and Kindergarten children, along with their teachers and parents. Wolf Trap teaching artists perform material specially created and arranged to give 3-6-year-olds their first introduction to live performance.

In the Washington, DC area, field trip performances are presented at the Center for Education at Wolf Trap. Wolf Trap Institute’s national affiliates present field trips in professional theaters, schools, and other performing spaces within the communities they serve. Contact an affiliate near you for details.

Family involvement workshops

These short workshops enable children and their parents/caregivers to enjoy live arts together. Find out more.