Holiday Spirit

From left, actors Caitlyn Louchard, Brandon Leland and Davied Morales perform "Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes," a play about gender roles, for students at Nixon Elementary School on Feb. 29, 2016. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted Dec. 27, 2016

TheatreWorks encourages playful learning, creativity
Nonprofit is more than a theater, offers programs at little or no cost to kids

by Karla Kane

"All the world's a stage," according to the king of theater, William Shakespeare. TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has taken that concept to heart by fostering theater skills and creative thinking throughout the community, offstage as well as on, in sometimes unexpected ways (during a kindergarten lesson on goldfish anatomy, for instance).

This is the TheatreWorks that audiences don't see: the wide range of programs for youth and kids, often available at little or no cost to the schools and organizations involved.

This past year, thanks in part to the $7,500 grant it received from the Holiday Fund, TheatreWorks was able to develop a new Playing with Science curriculum for elementary school students as part of its Concepts at Play program.

Concepts at Play brings TheatreWorks teaching artists into local schools (including, in Palo Alto to Barron Park, Duveneck, El Carmelo, Escondido, Greendell, Juana Briones, Nixon, Palo Verde and Walter Hays elementary schools) for 10-day residencies. Students, teachers and teaching artists work together on building collaborative skills, engaging their creativity and exploring core subjects in physically active -- in other words, playful -- ways.

Children, especially young children, learn best through play, so Concepts at Play features a variety of games to boost both fun and learning, according to TheatreWorks staff.

Actors Davied Morales and Caitlyn Louchard perform a scene from "Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes," in which Morales' character, Frank, plays a "smart princess" and Louchard's character, Beth, plays a "brave knight." Photo by Veronica Weber.
"I think what holds true in most cities is also true in Palo Alto: Each student is a unique learner," TheatreWorks Director of Education Amy Cole-Farrell told the Weekly. "Concepts at Play allows students to learn core concepts in science, math and language arts in a kinesthetic and fun way, tapping into self-expression and esteem."

Jen Tai, a kindergarten teacher at Duveneck Elementary School, has been utilizing Concepts at Play in her classroom for years.

"It is a different way of learning and teaching, but I love it," she said.

As part of its science curriculum, her class observes goldfish and guppies, comparing and contrasting their structures. With a game called "Build and Break," the students take turns coming to the middle of the room and acting as a part of the fish with their bodies and announcing which part they're portraying.

"I am the fin of the fish," one might say, while the next may add on by saying, "I am the gills of the fish." Once that fish is "built," the group then "breaks" so others can take a turn.

The games, Tai said, involve aspects of "voice, body and imagination," which the TheatreWorks teaching artists call three tools in an actor's toolbox.

"Many of the games incorporate focus skills. We also work on eye contact, a big social skill that can be hard for this age group," Tai explained.

Another example, which also fosters teamwork and concentration, is "Pass the Clap," in which the class forms a circle, then must take turns leading, getting the person next to them to clap in unison with them, without using words.

Tai said she's seen the impact the games have on learning. When she began incorporating spelling words into the games, for example, she saw a huge spike in her students recognizing those words and spelling them correctly later on.

The Holiday Fund grant also helps support TheatreWorks' many other projects. In-school performances of the "Oskar" series, for example, help elementary school students explore tough issues, such as gender identity and bullying, in entertaining, humorous ways. At Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, TheatreWorks teaching artists work with patients and their families as part of the Children's Healing Project, offering creative workshops and imagination games throughout the hospital's units. This year, it was able to expand its program for patients in the eating-disorders unit at the Children's Hospital's branch at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and create a new "Oskar" touring assembly.

From left, actors Caitlyn Louchard, Brandon Leland and Davied Morales perform "Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes," a play about gender roles, for students at Nixon Elementary School on Feb. 29, 2016. Photo by Veronica Weber.
Aspiring playwrights at Palo Alto and Gunn high schools (among others) have benefited from the mentoring of established writers, who help develop the students' ideas and bring them to life with the Young Playwright's Project. TheatreWorks also offers two-week Young Storytellers Labs; student matinees with accompanying study guides and workshops; summer and vacation camps; and a professional-development institute for teachers on how to integrate arts into their core curricula.

Before incorporating the Concepts at Play games into her classes, Tai underwent training, observing TheatreWorks teaching artists at summer camps and then learning their techniques. In her 15 years as a teacher in the Palo Alto district, she said, it's the best training she's ever received.

One of Tai's favorite Concepts at Play programs is Playing with Poetry, which she will do with her current class in March. In this program, a TheatreWorks teaching artist comes into the classroom for an hour a day for two weeks, during which the class is divided into groups, with each learning -- through games -- a part of a poem they choose together (a previous favorite in Tai's class was Sandra Boynton's "Barnyard Dance").

At the end of the two weeks, the class recites and acts out its poem for an audience of parents, teachers and peers.

"Every year I worry my kids won't memorize the poem in time," Tai admitted, but "the whole-body movements and the games keep the kids engaged. They always perform and amaze me," she said.

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2018 Grant Recipients

10 Books A Home
Expansion of in-home tutoring and literacy program helping parents prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten through age-appropriate books and reading exercises$15,000

49ers Academy
Consolidation and relocation to a single middle school of the reading intervention and academic support program at to help prepare Ravenswood middle school students for high school $5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for students at Menlo-Atherton High School and East Palo Alto charter high schools and for young families$5,000

Acterra
Energy audits and solar installations aimed at reducing utility costs for low income residents of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven$5,000

Ada's Café
Training and support of developmentally disabled employees and high school interns$5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Outlet Program providing support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth $7,500

All Students Matter
Launch of new literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$10,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 900 students in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for juvenile girls in the criminal justice system$5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing multiple tracks for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club
New homework center for elementary school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park$10,000

CASSY
School-based mental health services to students and families in six Ravenswood elementary and middle schools$10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance to East Palo Alto residents facing eviction and other rental housing problems and conflicts$10,000

Downtown Streets Team
Stipends for homeless volunteers who perform community services in downtown Palo Alto as they transition to regular employment$7,500

DreamCatchers
New system to document student progress and improve communication among tutors of Palo Alto middle school students$10,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing up to $600 grants to teachers in schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Literacy evaluations for first through eighth graders in Ravenswood schools to determine needed interventions$7,500

Environmental Volunteers
Monthly public environmental education programs for youth and adults$5,000

Family Connections
Early childhood education program for parents of preschoolers in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$7,500

Foundation for a College Education
College Knowledge middle and high school program designed to prepare students and their families to pursue a college education$7,500

Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
Science Outreach Program providing hands on science instruction at Willow Oaks Elementary School$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$10,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education instruction in Ravenswood middle schools$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships $5,000

JLS Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

Jordan Middle School
Jordan Academic Wellness Support (JAWS) providing after-school study center for students three days a week$4,000

Kara
Spanish language peer grief support program$7,500

Live in Peace
"Gap Year Project" to guide and support at-risk high school graduates unprepared or uncertain about careers or college$5,000

Marine Science Institute
Environmental and marine science education program for low-income students$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Music education in Ravenswood school district$5,000

New Creation Home Ministries
Parenting and life skills classes for teen mothers in East Palo Alto$5,000

New Voices for Youth
Video production equipment and training for middle school students at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto$3,000

Nuestra Casa
ESL classes for East Palo Alto adults$7,500

One East Palo Alto
Summer job and mentoring program for at-risk East Palo Alto youth$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Cultural Kaleidoscope, an arts-education program linking Palo Alto and East Palo Alto schools and using professional artists$5,000

Palo Alto Housing
Family Reading Club for parents and youth living in subsidized rental apartments managed by Palo Alto Housing $4,000

Peninsula Bridge
After school and summer academic support programs for low income middle and high school students with a goal of attending college$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Health care supplies and services provided at the Opportunity Center clinic$5,000

Project WeHOPE
Classes and counseling to support the homeless in East Palo Alto$15,000

Quest Learning Center
Parent education workshops for parents of 2nd to 5th graders in East Palo Alto $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of washing machines at three district schools$10,000

Rosalie Rendu Center
ESL and life skills classes for East Palo Alto adults$3,500

Silicon Valley FACES
Scholarships for East Palo Alto teens to attend Camp Everytown youth diversity training weekend$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Summer debate camp for at-risk students in East Palo Alto$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
Meals for low-income third to fifth graders attending East Palo Alto after-school program$5,000

Stanford Jazz Workshop
Pilot of new after-school jazz music program for Ravenswood school district 6th graders$2,500

Terman Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$7,500

YMCA Ross Road
Six-week summer enrichment camp for low-income students attending Barron Park Elementary School$5,000

Youth Community Service
Support of Summer of Service day camp scholarships, service clubs at local middle and high schools, service days and life skills programs for at-risk teens$15,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$15,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Children's Center of the Stanford Community
New classroom tables and chairs and additional trikes$5,000

Children's Pre-School Center
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Friends of Preschool Family
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
New cabinets and counters$5,000

The Learning Center
Installation of new Nature Explore "Outdoor Classroom"$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Upgrade of outdoor play space at Barron Park Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Replacement of single-pane windows$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Repavement of parking area$5,000

Peninsula Family Service
Repairs and improvements of outdoor play area at Haven Child Development Center$5,000

As of Dec. 12, 2018,
197 donors have contributed $198,275.
* indicates amount withheld

David Labaree300
Bruce Campbell200
Janis Ulevich100
Mike Gordon250
Bill Reller*
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Xiaofan Lin50
M D Savioe*
Ron Wolf200
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Tom Goodrich100
Leif & Sharon Erickson250
Stephen Levy 500
John & Meg Monroe500
Daniel Cox200
Richard Zuanich200
Kieschnick Family*
Deborah Williams500
Joan & Roger Warnke*
Havern Family"5,000
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell"1,000
Mike & Jean Couch250
Tony & Judy Kramer*
Peter Stern*
Dorothy Saxe100
David & Nancy Kalkbrenner100
David & Lynn Mitchell450
Barbara Riper*
Nancy & Joe Huber100
Sue Kemp250
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Stev & Mary Chapel50
Ruth Hammett100
Drew McCalley & Marilyn Green100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Judith Appleby200
Carolyn Brennan*
Susana & Doug Woodman*
Jody Maxmin*
Pat Burt250
Larry Baer500
Arthur Keller*
Lawrence Naiman100
Pamela Mayerfeld100
Eileen Brooks500
Scott & Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Braff Family500
Eugene & Mabel Dong200
Debby Roth200
Phil Hanawalt & Garciela Spivak"1,000
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith100
Tom & Ellen Ehrlich350
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Gwen Luce*
Robert Aulger*
Pat & John Davis50
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Kroymann Family250
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Karen & Steve Ross*
Wileta Burch*
Mandy Lowell*
George & Betsy Young*
Tom & Pat Sanders*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson400
Jim & Alma Phillips500
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Michael & Cathie Foster500
Diane Moore*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Chuck & Jean Thompson100
Julie Jerome500
Bonnie Berg*
Gallo Family500
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Caryn Huberman Yacowitz*
Shirley R. Ely"1,000
Luca & Mary Cafiero*
Steve & Diane Ciesinski500
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker500
James W. & Nancy E. Baer200
The Ely Family250
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
JoAnne N. Zschokke100
Ralph R. Wheeler300
Bert Fingerhut & Caroline Hicks250
Kaaren & John Antoun1,500
Richard Johnsson"7,000
Bruce Gee & Jane Gee250
Eric Hahn & Elaine Hahn"1,000
Bob & Dee Crawford*
Diane & Bob Simoni200
Jan Thomson & Roy Levin*
Donald & Adele Langendorf200
Irvin & Marilyn Yalom100
Brigid Barton500
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John & Florine Galen*
H. Anton & Carolyn Tucher250
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Bob & Micki Cardelli*
John Pavkovich500
Eileen Stolee100
Sallie Whaley*
Ann Burrell & Allen Smith*
Patti Yanklowitz150
Linda Selden*
Dena Hill500
Michael Patrick200
Bonnie Packer100
Romola Georgia*
Martha Shirk500
Christina Kenrick"1,000
Dawes Family250
Ken Bencala & Sally O'Neil200
Nina & Norman Kulgein*
Tom & Nancy Fiene*
Lee Zulman*
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Judy & Lee Shulman200
Donna & Jerry Silverberg100
Victor Befera100
Kay & Don Remsen*
Beth & Peter Rosenthal300
Robyn H. Crumly*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Amado Padilla & Deborah Farrington500
Jerry & Linda Elkind500
Donald & Virginia Fitton25
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Roger V. Smith300
In Memory Of

Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Janet Hermsen200
Ray Bacchetti250
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Tracy & Alan Herrick100
Bob Fenster*
David, Zoe & Ken100
Mrs. Nancy Yih*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Corrine Aulgur*
Duncan Matteson250
Pam Grady300
Elliot Eisner*
Nate Rosenberg200
Francine Mendlin250
Bob Donald*
Bill Land*
Emmett Lorey*
Ted Linden200
Marie & Don Snow150
Ben Barres100
Kathleen Morris*
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
August L. King*
In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
Lucy Berman's clients"2,500
Jill200
Scott200
Polly200
Hayley200
Jake200
Garrett200
Gil200
Joe Simitian*
Businesses/Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on January 4, 2019.