Drama teacher scores a Gripp grant
Drama Teacher Dinah Barthelmess gives out the preliminary instructions for her students in her Wilmette Junior High School Tech Drama class on how to apply make-up. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
WHAT: Gripp Grants
FROM: District 39 Educational Foundation
TO: Innovative teaching programs
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:19AM
As students in her seventh-grade class wrestle with fake blood and unexpectedly sticky special-effects wax, or age themselves with dark pencils, drama teacher Dinah Barthelmess darts around the room, reviewing what she’s taught them about theatrical make-up.
When the class ends, she photographs each of them; their portraits will end up on the classroom wall, accompanied by a story each teen has created about his or her character.
The inventiveness Barthelmess encourages in her students with such exercises is mirrored in the creativity of the exercises themselves, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by education boosters in the district.
Her upcoming “Say Yes to Improv” project, developed for eighth-grade drama students, has won one of three Gripp program grants awarded to district teachers last month by the District 39 Educational Foundation.
The grant, along with one from the Illinois Arts Council, will help Barthelmess bring two teaching artists from the Actors’ Training Center in Wilmette to work with her and her students over the next several weeks. She’ll then use what she learns to teach other students after the program ends.
Improvisation can build students’ empathy, risk-taking abilities and teamwork skills, she said last week. And that kind of approach to enriching the learning experience is what caught the eye of Gripp Grant program administrators.
For two decades, the foundation’s grant program has sought out similarly creative ideas, donating more than $1 million to educators who propose programs experiences and technologies that enrich or complement existing school curricula.
The grant committee, which includes district teachers from all grade levels, reviews applications twice yearly, and awards small seed grants or larger “master” grants to educators.
In addition to Barthelmess, the most recent awards also recognized Romona School teacher Bev Taylor, who will use hers to expand Romona’s outdoor learning garden with help from groups like the National Wildlife Federation. Highcrest School Mandarin Chinese teacher Yuyu Xi, won the third grant. She will use it to add cultural hands-on learning projects to her students’ language lessons.
“We are thrilled to be able to pilot these exciting initiatives,” Grant chair Wendy Irwin said when awards were announced.
There are no minimum or maximum number of grants awarded, nor are previous winners prevented from applying again, either with new projects or with expansions of earlier projects. Taylor’s grant is the second she has received to develop the garden, and the “Say Yes to Improv” award is Barthelmess’ third grant in a decade.
“I can’t tell you how lucky I feel, not only to be a full time drama teacher in this district, but to have the district’s educational foundation supporting what I do,” Barthelmess said.
For more information on Gripp grants, and how to present a project application, visit the District 39 Educational Foundation web page at www.wilmette39.org/d39foundation/gripp-application.~.