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Meet the Teaching Artist: Bonnie Duncan

Posted Thursday March 05 2015 at 6:42 pm.
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Bonnie Duncan

Bonnie's Mission Statement:

I have a true drive to integrate the arts into education.  I approach each project with techniques that bring students with different strengths and skills fully into the classroom and engage them with the materials they are studying.  I use the arts to allow students to make their own learning discoveries and to explore their subjects on their own terms.  I feel very strongly that students need to explore their own creative gifts, make their own mistakes, and achieve their own triumphs through the process of making a performance.  Although I am an artist and performer on my own, I come to the classroom as an educator first.

Bonnie's Experience:

I work directly with classroom teachers to plan and implement my residencies.  My in-depth knowledge, experience, and curiosity make my residencies very unique.  I have a passion for teaching teachers so they can continue incorporating drama, movement, and puppetry into their classroom after my visits.  Since 1999, I have worked and performed in over fifty schools, private & public, urban & suburban.  My residencies include some of the following elements: dancing the alphabet
; acting out stories, vocabulary words, moments in history; boosting vocabulary
; adapting books into plays and dances
; visualizing text
; becoming characters from a book or social situation; linking reading to personal experience
; making puppets and puppet plays
; building community, trust, and risk taking.

Some Past Projects:

  •  reenacted the Battle of Bull Run, 8th grade

  •  adapted a novel into a full-length play, 4th-6th grade

  •  dramatized events at Ellis Island, 4th grade


  •  created mini-plays from picture books, kindergarten

  •  developed literacy & drama teacher training, 2nd-3rd grade

  •  designed personal puppets for peer teaching, 11th-12th grade

  •  wrote physics of dance curriculum, 9th-10th grade


  •  created and dramatized in-class wild west town, 3rd grade
  •  recorded and performed student-written poems, 1st grade

What Students Say:

Thank you for teaching us the scenes in the books we read.  It helped me.  It helped me because I remember all of the scenes. - third grade student, Boston

Students Curled Up Lying on Floor

I loved when you did play games and when we got to act out things.  Also I loved when you taught us how to do the letters with our bodies.  You are the best funniest teacher ever. - second grade student, Boston

What Teachers Say:

By working with Bonnie, my students are more comfortable taking risks in the classroom, such as raising their hands to participate and willingly feeling safe to get up in front of the class.  I attribute this to Bonnie Duncan's ability to make each child feel safe and important. - second grade teacher, Boston

I think Bonnie is a "key element" in helping children with some language learning disabilities connect to literature, especially difficult genres.  I also think she was great at helping the children use their imagery skills, which is often difficult for children with reading disabilities. - second grade teacher, Boston

Students wearing masks

The professional development opportunity I had by observing Bonnie Duncan interact with my students was invaluable.  I have been trying to continue her work in my classroom by having students act out scenes from the stories we read, and allowing my students opportunities to use their bodies as a means of expressing thoughts and emotions.  These activities originate from Bonnie Duncan's modeling. - third grade teacher, Boston

About Bonnie:

Bonnie Duncan holds a Masters in Education from Lesley University in Creative Arts in Learning.  She has been a Teaching Artist since 1999, working in urban and suburban schools, integrating drama and movement into language arts and social studies classrooms.  She also developed the curriculum and taught theatre arts at a Montessori elementary and middle school for 12 years.  When Bonnie is not teaching, she blends puppetry, dance, and physical theatre in surprising and delightful ways for family audiences.  Her work has been described as "an artful world of silent dreams, mime, and dance" (Austin Live Theatre).

Her show, Squirrel Stole My Underpants, is selling out venues across the US and inspiring homemade puppet shows by kids everywhere.  When Bonnie is not performing and teaching, she is the mother of three young children, an avid runner, and vegan cupcake maker.

Learn even more about Bonnie by visiting www.bonnie-duncan.com

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