Great Basin Young Chautauqua Frequently Asked Question for Parents

What is Great Basin Young Chautauqua?

Great Basin Young Chautauqua was founded by Nevada Humanities in 1993. Great Basin Young Chautauqua is an intense program of scholarship, research, rehearsing, and performing. Young Chautauquans commit to developing a theatrical character in late January and spend more than six months reading biographies, learning stories, and rehearsing their character with other Young Chautauquans and workshop leaders at bimonthly meetings. In May and June, their characters are ready, and Young Chautauquans perform throughout the Truckee Meadows area, gaining valuable performance experience. They each create a costume and polish flexible 5, 10, and 15-minute monologues that they present to community groups, schools, libraries, and service organizations. Six months of research and practice are shared with the public in a series of celebratory performances.


What are the benefits of Young Chautauqua?

Founded by Nevada Humanities in 1993, Great Basin Young Chautauqua is a nationally recognized and award-winning youth program in which young scholars research and portray historical figures. In 2002, Nevada Humanities received a Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities for creating and developing Young Chautauqua. Through monologues and question-and-answer sessions, young scholars – in and out of character – engage their audience in lively discussions and provide insight into historical study. The Great Basin Young Chautauqua program is a valuable way to increase a young person's understanding of, and engagement with, the humanities. Years after its founding, it continues to inspire and educate children in Nevada and beyond.

Great Basin Young Chautauqua provides a rare opportunity for young people to apply scholarly research to creative activities such as writing and reciting their own monologues and learning theatrical skills. Young people develop research skills and learn to speak in public, honing their talent for rhetoric and gaining the confidence and poise that comes with presenting ideas publicly. These skills are interdisciplinary, initially focused on historical research, but applicable to math, social studies, literature, and beyond. Parents have reported that their children’s grades have risen as they progress with the Great Basin Young Chautauqua program.


Nevada Humanities has decades of experience in providing quality Young Chautauqua educational opportunities statewide. We have remained in contact with young people who have graduated from the program and have watched them become engaged in a variety of meaningful and creative pursuits, including becoming attorneys, journalists, and teachers. Many of these people credit Great Basin Young Chautauqua with helping them gain self-confidence, courage, research and speaking skills, and a deep appreciation for history and scholarship that has stuck with them through all of their interests and adventures.


Where and when are the workshops, how long do they last, and what do they entail?

The Young Chautauqua program runs from mid-January through June of each year. Workshops are held approximately every other Tuesday, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, at the KNPB building (1670 N. Virginia St.) in Reno. The workshops are guided by a syllabus that begins with an information session for parents and young people in mid-January. The workshops cover topics such as character selection, research techniques, how to develop a character’s biographical timeline, story development, rhetoric, and theatrical techniques. After the workshops are completed, Young Chautauquans prepare to perform in a series of public celebratory performances in the Reno area, and celebrate their achievements with a potluck.


Who runs the workshops?

The Great Basin Young Chautauqua program is coordinated by Nevada Humanities staff and the Young Chautauqua Program Administrator. In addition, parent and community volunteers contribute valuable expertise in helping to run the focused work groups. For the 2018 season, Lindsay Cook is returning to coordinate the Young Chautauqua program. Lindsay graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2014 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She has since been teaching at Virginia Palmer Elementary School in Sun Valley. She taught first grade for two years and has been team teaching in second grade for the last two years. Lindsay was hired by Nevada Humanities seven years ago as an intern for their Great Basin Young Chautauqua program. She held that role for four years and then was asked to take a bigger role in the program as Program Administrator and continues to hold that position today. Lindsay loves nothing more than working with children, and teaching them not only the importance of education, but also instilling in them a lifelong love for learning, which she believes is exactly what the Great Basin Young Chautauqua program does!


How much does the program cost?

Participation in the Young Chautauqua program is free and open to all youth ages 8 – 18. Underwriting for the program is provided by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation, individual donors, parent and community volunteers, and many other community partners. There are some minimal expenses associated with participating in the program, which include costume supplies and parental transportation to and from workshops and performances. Young Chautauquans receive the annual GBYC t-shirt for participating in the program; any additional t-shirts (for family) need to be purchased. Two scholarships are available to families in need. Contact the Young Chautauqua Program Administrator or the Nevada Humanities office for more information. Nevada Humanities provides all creative supplies associated with the workshops.


How old does my child need to be to participate in the program?

The Young Chautauqua program is open to all children ages 8 – 18. This generally includes grades 3 – 12. 


How do I register my child for the Young Chautauqua program?

Registration forms may be downloaded at and registration is open until the day the second workshop is held. Registration materials can be sent to Nevada Humanities or given to the program administrator at one of the first two workshop sessions. Registration is open until either the maximum number of participants is reached or the second workshop has passed, whichever comes first.


What are my responsibilities as a parent of a Young Chautauquan?

Parental involvement is key to the success of Young Chautuauqua. Parents transport their children to and from Young Chautauqua workshops and activities, and assist with the construction of costumes; many parents volunteer to lead workshop groups, mentor Young Chautauquans, volunteer during Nevada Humanities Young Chautauqua main stage performances, and much more. It’s the Young Chautauquan’s responsibility to conduct the necessary research. In this regard, parental involvement should be limited to guidance, direction, and encouragement.


I think my child might be too shy.

Many parents and young people think that the performance is what Young Chautauqua is all about. In fact, the performance is the reward for all of the research and speaking skills learned at the Tuesday night workshops. As your child learns about her character and the historical time period of that character’s life, his or her enthusiasm for telling the story grows. As the storytelling skills develop in your child’s workshop group, his or her confidence grows. We have found, year after year, by May or June, these shy Young Chautauquans are eager to perform publicly.


My child has too many other activities.

The bulk of the effort in being a Young Chautauquan is in researching a historical character. This involves reading books, visiting libraries and archives, and utilizing the Internet. Your children are required to do a lot of reading for school assignments. They also write book reports and present verbal reports on the books to their classes. Schools also provide computer skills classes. Rather than Young Chautauqua interfering with these activities, Chautauqua research often reinforces schoolwork.


I’m afraid Young Chautauqua will interfere with my child’s schoolwork.

Some parents notice that their children’s grades have risen since they have become part of Young Chautauqua. Young Chautauqua teaches commitment and scholarly discipline, and makes learning fun. It gives young people a sense of pride in becoming the resident expert about a piece of history. Skills learned by Young Chautauquans are applicable to other subjects such as social studies, geography, math, and literature.