Hartford Stage Receives $82,500 Grant from the LEGO® Community Fund to Support Connections Program
By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
Connections is an innovative, in-school residency program that uses theatre techniques and activities to strengthen comprehension and build excitement about reading. Since Hartford Stage started offering the program in 1999, the program has reached more than 60,000 students in approximately 148 schools and 46 towns throughout Connecticut.
The LEGO Community Fund grant will assist with further strengthening Connections by enabling the development of arts-integrated curriculum in science and financial literacy, offering the program to underserved districts, and incorporating a data-driven method for measuring the results of the program.
“We are very grateful to the LEGO Community Fund US for this important grant that will help us to strengthen the curriculum and broaden the reach of our flagship literacy program,” said Michael Stotts, Managing Director of Hartford Stage. “To be able to expand the program further into financial literacy and the sciences strongly makes the case for STEAM Education vs STEM Education and affirms Hartford Stage’s role in enriching the lives of so many students.”
The LEGO mission to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow” aligns well with Connections, which moves beyond traditional learning methods through the use of creative, hands-on learning and active student engagement.
“The LEGO Community Fund US invited us to ‘think big.’ They were seeking a proposal that would have deep and widespread impact on the community. Rather than creating a brand new program, we looked to our very successful, longstanding, and widespread Connections programs and thought: ‘What can we do to make this a stronger, deeper program?’ The kind of research, development and evaluation work that we proposed, and that the LEGO Community Fund has enthusiastically supported, is rare and valuable,” said Jennifer Roberts, Director of Education at Hartford Stage. “We are extremely grateful and so excited about the impact this work will have, not only on the new curricula we’re developing – and the new students we’ll reach – but on the thousands of teachers and students who already participate in this program each year.”
Hartford Stage was invited by the LEGO Community Fund US to submit a grant proposal supporting a program with the potential for widespread community impact. Connections was submitted and chosen, as its innovative approach to learning through theatricality closely matched the Fund’s own priorities of facilitating creative education opportunities for children.
“We are thrilled to expand our support of the Hartford Stage’s work to engage children in creative learning,” said Søren Torp Laursen, chairman of the LEGO Community Fund US. “We applaud the work that Hartford Stage does for our community, and we are proud to support new opportunities that help them extend their reach and impact.”
Roberts noted that the $82,500 grant will also enable Hartford Stage to contract consultants specializing in financial literacy and science to provide content expertise.
“This is so important as we develop curricula that are truly arts-integrated – which means that students gain and demonstrate understanding of another subject area through an art form,” Roberts explained. “We are skilled at using drama techniques in the classroom that pique students’ interest and engagement in a book or a subject area, but we are not experts in science or financial literacy. Having the support of people who are extremely knowledgeable in those areas will make our curriculum stronger and ensure that our teaching artists are able to better engage and answer students’ curiosity.”