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Middle School Students Create Connections In Dear Evan Hansen Workshop

Friday afternoon in the Elder Performing Arts Center (EPAC), Lausanne eighth-graders gathered as part of a workshop that combined both social and emotional learning (SEL) and the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.

The project is a result of a partnership between Dear Evan Hansen and Microsoft titled Creating Connections with Dear Evan Hansen. It is a program that educates and empowers teens to build more meaningful connections in their everyday lives.

Dear Evan Hansen—currently on Broadway, with productions in Toronto, London, and cities all across America—is a look inside the life of a high school student struggling with isolation, social anxiety and finding his place in the world. It uses social media as an important character in the story, bringing to life onstage the communities and conversations that unfold online in a theatrical and authentic way.

Acknowledging that the use of technology in learning during the past year has led to isolation for many. The hour-long workshop utilized that same technology as a force for positive connection. During the workshop, Lausanne students defined what making a connection meant to them and then turned those goals into a clear and meaningful action plan. The result is that students find their voices and use technology to foster authentic connections with their friends, family and communities.

During the event, students were also asked to examine their experiences and perspectives with questions like:

  • Why do you think more and more people today are feeling lonely?
  • When have you yourself felt lonely?
  • What does making a meaningful connection mean to you?
  • What could a world with more meaningful human connections look like?

“We are constantly in the process of trying to find meaningful ways to support the social and emotional growth of our students,” Greg Graber, Lausanne’s Director of SEL said. “This project is quite timely because children this age live in an accelerated culture in which they must balance between authentic connections and virtual interactions on social media platforms.  We are grateful to Chuck Clark in our technology department for researching and coordinating this important endeavor.”