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ZACH Theatre Awarded Impact Austin Grant for Arts Across the Curriculum Program

ZACH Theatre has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Impact Austin - a nonprofit organization that pools annual donations from members and gives grants to local, worthy causes selected by its members - to fund the expansion of ZACH's Arts Across the Curriculum program.

Impact Austin will hold an award presentation for ZACH on Monday, June 17 at noon at the Topfer Theatre's People's Plaza, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. at W. Riverside Dr. The presentation is open to the public.

ZACH Theatre's Arts Across the Curriculum is an arts integration and professional development program that trains teachers to use creative drama and theatre techniques to actively engage students in language arts, science, history, and math curricula.

Impact Austin's grants are awarded in five focus areas: culture, education, environment, family, and health and wellness. ZACH's Arts Across the Curriculum program was the grant winner for the culture category, which encompasses programs and projects that cultivate, develop, educate and improve the cultural climate in the Greater Austin area.

For the past two years, ZACH Theatre, with support from partner organizations mindPOP, Austin ISD and The Kennedy Center, has successfully piloted the AAC program in three Title I Austin ISD elementary schools and 15 classrooms. The Impact Austin grant will allow ZACH to expand its AAC program from three Title I schools to 16, from 15 teachers to 60, and from 300 at-risk students to 1,500 over the next two years. The grant will also fund the addition of a dedicated program coordinator, salaries for teaching artists, and an in-depth third-party quantitative and qualitative evaluation conducted by UT to measure the effectiveness of the program so it can further be refined and expanded.

This program accomplishes three key goals: enables Austin ISD to meet state standards for theatre education, improves children's access to the arts, and engages children more fully in learning key concepts that are currently present in Texas state curriculum standards. By getting students out of their chairs, moving and involved in the material in a different way, the AAC pilot has had measurable improvement on vocabulary retention, classroom engagement, and school success for the children who have participated.

According to ZACH Education Director Nat Miller, the teachers he has worked with are believers in the program and have adopted the drama strategies they've learned into their classrooms. "One teacher informed me that her students tested 30 percentage points above the district average in reading benchmark testing. The total amount of hours she spent teaching directly to the test: four. The rest of their reading instruction was done with drama strategies we developed: acting out the story as they read, embodying characters, and learning vocabulary with gestures. Her students have learned more than 60 vocabulary words, using our method; and after reviewing them, a student came to her and said these words, 'I feel intelligent.' Research shows that by third grade, the perception children have about themselves as learners will be the perception they carry with them the rest their lives," Miller says.

Sloan McLain, a second grade teacher who participated in the AAC pilot program, said this about his experience: "I will continue to integrate arts into my curriculum because it provides a more rigorous educational experience for my students, and quite frankly, it makes teaching more fun. I strongly believe my students are not only more engaged in their learning when fine arts are incorporated into their curriculum, but students have a higher retention of the material they have learned from embodying their vocabulary and concepts through drama games and activities."

The popularity of ZACH's educational programs continues to grow. Serving nearly 28,000 Central Texas children who participate in its diverse education and outreach programs annually, ZACH is the leading professional, producing children's theatre company in Austin.

ZACH is committed to not only bringing children to the theatre, but also to transporting theatre into the classroom and integrating it with existing core curriculum. Outreach to Title I schools has always been a critical part of ZACH's programming, bringing in more than 15,000 students from low-income schools to see youth shows for reduced ticket prices last year alone.

For real-time updates on ZACH Theatre news, events and happenings, visit www.zachtheatre.org/blog, be a fan of ZACH Theatre on Facebook www.facebook.com/zachtheatre, and follow ZACH on Twitter @zachtheatre www.twitter.com/zachtheatre.

ZACH Theatre is Austin's leading professional producing theatre, employing more than 600 actors, musicians, and designers annually. Founded in 1932, ZACH is the longest running theatre company in Texas, serving 95,000 adults and youth annually. ZACH creates its own nationally recognized plays and musicals that ignite the imagination, lift the spirit, and engage the community under the proven leadership of Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley and Managing Director Elisbeth Challener. Launching its 80th season in 2012, ZACH continues to expand and engage with Austin, adding the new 420-seat, 32,000-square-foot Topfer Theatre to its performing arts campus, nearly doubling ZACH's capacity while retaining its hallmark intimate theatre-going experience. Visit www.zachtheatre.org for more information.



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