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Want good grades? Try adding a little drama

Student finds life on stage leads to good grades off it
by: Cory Crouser Gresham High School freshman Arianne Melton plays in her acoustic guitar group, which meets after school. This is just one of her many activities, which she now has more time for after returning home from an international science fair in Los Angeles.

Gresham High School freshman Arianne Melton, 15, has been propped in front of a cardboard display for the last eight months.

It all started when her freshman Honors Physical Science teacher, Kathy Childress, assigned her and her classmates a project for the regional science fair, held at the high school March 12.

Melton, who loves theater, sought to incorporate her passion for the stage into her investigation.

'I went wherever I could with it to find the correlation between the arts and academics,' she said.

Melton decided to enter her project under the 'behavioral sciences' category, and noted the hypothesis was simple: Drama students have an overall better set of core grades than students who don't study drama.

In the end, her investigation not only earned a first-place award, it propelled Melton from Gresham to Los Angeles.

Survey says

Melton surveyed drama and Spanish students at Gresham to establish a connection between theater and academic success. She examined the students' performances in math, science and English, as well as the difficulty of the courses they were taking.

'The surveys were anonymous, so I think people were pretty honest,' she added.

With a little help from the principal's office, she found that drama students begin on average performing at a lower level academically freshman year than their counterparts who don't study drama. However, by senior year, they generally have better grades than their peers who don't do drama.

'Right now we're doing 'Romeo and Juliet' scenes,' she says, 'and I've learned character traits and things that have helped me in English.'

Melton's project, which was explained on a poster board decorated like a theater bill, won first place at the high school fair in her category. In addition to her poster board, Melton had to speak to judges, and she noted she attended public speaking seminars to hone her skills in public presentation.

Judges with connections to theater, she says, really delved into her motives for the experiment, while others were curious about her statistics.

'The biggest question I got was whether or not I was in theater, because that wasn't on there,' Melton says.

On to L.A.

Melton's efforts scored her an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles to participate in Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair from May 8-13. Intel is a global technology company and America's largest producer of semiconductor chips.

The fair drew more than 1,600 students from 65 countries, with 200 students competing in Melton's category, behavioral sciences.

Representatives from businesses and colleges frequented the fair, offering scholarships and recruiting future employees. Melton was not offered any herself because 'they mostly look at upperclassmen,' she says, adding her entry did not place. Nonetheless, she says that she came out of the fair realizing she loves theater and science, and is considering a career that incorporates both her passions.

'A lot of people showed interest in my project, like (the Oregon Institute of Technology) and the National Association for Drug and Alcohol Abuse,' she says, noting the interest caused her to ask: 'What if I could use theater as therapy?'

For example, she said, what if folks who grow up in troubled homes are exposed to the positive family atmosphere and camaraderie that participating in student dramas provide?

'You could use a scene to reach whatever it is that was troubling them by choosing a scene that related to the issue in their life, and analyzing it with them to reach their own emotions without having to make them uncomfortable,' she says.

Melton's teacher Kathy Childress praises her for her efforts.

'She just takes care of business, she always does excellent work, everything she does is excellent,' Childress says.