Engaging students on the autism spectrum
Shakespeare’s Heartbeat uses the Hunter Heartbeat Method developed by Kelly Hunter of Flute Theatre, utilizing the iambic pentameter (heartbeat rhythm) of Shakespeare’s words and the physicality of his characters to engage with students on the autism spectrum. Geared towards grades 4-12, this program’s interactive games and gestures are paired with short phrases from Shakespeare’s works to improve social skills and help with identifying and expressing emotions.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is thrilled to partner with Francisco Middle School, Everett Middle School, Marina Middle School and Aptos Middle School of SFUSD, the College of Adaptive Arts at West Valley College in Saratoga, and Joseph Schmitz of Eureka Street Learning to present Shakespeare’s Heartbeat.
Teacher Natalia Ceníseroz from Francisco Middle School comments “It’s been great working with SF Shakes to find the different ways that we can reach each of our students in their own way. Students really engage with their beloved Shakespeare’s Heartbeat instructors, and are excited and look forward to class. The Heartbeat teachers come with a curriculum and have everything prepared for you. They’re there with you and make it a collaborative experience.”
Teacher Ann Caimi at Everett Middle School reports, “Shakespeare’s Heartbeat has been such a gift to my class. At first, I thought it would be a cool way to spend an hour a week. What it turned into was so much more! After Shakespeare’s Heartbeat, my students can compare anime villains to Próspero in ELA class, and can throw their angry faces away in favor of their focused faces during math tests. My students love this chance to try new things and as a teacher I relish the chance for them to thrive in new and different ways. But the best part is how they connect their Heartbeat work back into all our other subjects and to their own lives.”
This residency is a semester-long venture. Pricing varies based on number of sessions, number of students/classes, number of teaching artists needed, required materials, and transportation. When in-person isn’t possible, sessions can take place virtually.
SF Shakes teaching artist and autism theatre specialist Joseph Schmitz brought the program to SF Shakes and continues help the heartbeat program flourish. In addition to being the founder of Eureka Street Learning, he works in technology, education, and theatre. When not making video, writing, or acting, he has the pleasure of teaching improv and video-making. He is a co-founder of Special Focus, a performing arts program for special education students in Northern California.
Education Workgroup member and teaching artist Evan Held is taking lead on SF Shakes’ side of the program. In addition to managing and administrating, Evan teaches the program with a very hands-on approach. This program is very personal to him, and he believes that by helping the students you also help everyone around them in their lives. “The parents, siblings, and teachers all feel the ripple of the impact of this program”
Al (they/he) holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from SF State University. Al takes their passion and wit into every role and classroom. Equipped with an affinity for Shakespeare, the arts, and good timez, Al has made a home in several of SF Shakes’ education and community programs. Much of their professional journey prior to Shakes has been in youth education, theatrical arts, and outdoor recreation, with employers such as SF and Oakland USD, the GGNRA and MTC, as well as Americorps and the National Park Service. Al aims to cultivate a creative and welcoming space (cause that’s where the best stuff is made).
Jules (she/her) is thrilled to join the Heartbeat team this year. She fell in love with working with the disabled community as a camp counselor for EasterSeals Wisconsin and is excited to see the convergence of that work with Shakespeare. Jules believes everyone has a performance in their heart and seeks to create an environment where all people feel empowered to share that.