makeSPACE Philadelphia

A collaboration between Children First PA and makeSPACE

What is makeSPACE?

makeSPACE enhances the creative strengths of teachers and prepares them to integrate research-based creative and artistic practices into curriculum and instruction across content areas and grade levels. makeSPACE is a flexible system of self-guided online courses, live institutes and workshops, grab-and-go instructional routines and solutions, and an interactive community of practice where innovative educators can exchange and crowdsource ideas. Teachers develop their own creative practice and adapt materials to suit their unique school context and classroom settings to enhance the creative learning experience of students. Most importantly, these learning experiences can enhance student engagement and result in improved academic skills and motivation. 

The U.S. Department of Education, through an Education, Innovation, and Research (EIR) grant, is currently funding makeSPACE in 12 Philadelphia schools, with an emphasis on theater arts integration for 7th and 8th grade teachers and students. The Marrazzo Family Foundation is funding makeSPACE in 5 additional Philadelphia schools who have a history of schoolwide arts-rich learning. Teachers and students across grade levels and subject areas at these Arts Rich Innovation Schools are beta-testing makeSPACE strategies in theater, visual arts, and music.  

logo: makeSPACE
makespace snapshots

On playfulness

“I enjoyed these games, activities, and theater tableaux….As we participated in these activities, I had more ideas of how to incorporate them into my classroom. I had students reluctant at first to participate but the more the other students participated and laughed, the more they wanted to join in and come out of their shells…it got my students to encourage each other and find ways to get everyone to participate. 

I use to think I couldn't do it and incorporate theater but now I feel more comfortable with the practice."

-makeSPACE Philadelphia teacher

Embodied professional development

Check out how Philly's makeSPACE leaders embraced their creative resources during the June 2023 Summer Institute.

makeSPACE at a glance

Who can enroll in makeSPACE?

At the 12 Philadelphia schools funded by the US Department of Education EIR Grant, teachers and specialists who serve students in Grades 7 and 8, across subject areas, are eligible. These schools are John F. Hartranft, Jay Cooke, James G. Blaine, Castor Gardens, Samuel Gompers , Franklin Edmonds, General Philip Kearny, Marian Anderson, John H. Taggart, Feltonville, William C. Longstreth, Honorable Luis Munoz-Marin. 

At the 5 Philadelphia schools funded by the Marrazzo Family Foundation Grant, teachers and specialists from across grade levels and subject areas are eligible. These schools are AMY Northwest, Cook-Wissahickon, Charles W. Henry, Thomas Holme, and Overbrook Educational Center.

What would I do as a participant?

Participating teachers engage in online, self-paced courses that scaffold new ideas and techniques for teachers to try, adapt, and integrate into their teaching. Online courses are supplemented with in-person or virtual workshops, small group coaching, and hands-on experiences facilitated by fellow teachers trained in makeSPACE school teams. Teachers develop their own design-based action research process to test and learn from the integration of creative and artistic practices in their classrooms. Interested teachers can also develop their own capacity to train their colleagues. Our virtual library provides dozens of instructional routines, integration ideas, and teacher-generated innovations across grade levels and content areas.

How does makeSPACE cultivate culturally responsive teaching and social-emotional learning?

Different creative and artistic modalities leverage the cultural and social-emotional assets of diverse learners and provide equitable opportunities for students to contribute. Creative routines in theater and other arts domains help teachers get to know their students and establish a sense of belonging and agency across the learning community. Trusting relationships and social-emotional knowledge and skills are key to effective teaching and powerful learning. Creative engagement supports the social-emotional well-being of both teachers and students, adding important skills to everyone’s toolbox.

Why does makeSPACE focus on integrating theater arts into other content areas?

The theater arts offer a variety of instructional tools such as gesture and story that can be integrated across the curriculum to enhance student engagement and understanding in learning. These techniques can be learned by teachers with no prior theater experience and implemented efficiently alongside other learning objectives. Across 47 peer-reviewed studies, researchers(1) found positive effects of theater integrated teaching on student achievement across content areas and on other social and motivational outcomes. Effects were strongest in middle schools when teachers led the theater integration and connected it closely to academic content, and when taught in at least five class periods. These findings inform the design of makeSPACE.

1 See Lee, B. K., Patall, E. A., Cawthon, S. W., & Steingut, R. R. (2014). The effect of drama based pedagogy on preK–16 outcomes: A meta-analysis of research from 1985 to 2012. Review of Educational Research, 85(1), 3-49.

Why Theater Arts?

Here’s a window into how tableaux vivants can become a learning tool in classrooms.

EIR Project timeline


Orientation for School Teams and Implementation Planning

Once schools have been selected, orientation, course engagement and planning with project partners begins. School teams consist of several 7th and 8th grade teachers and an administrator. Engagement of other 7th and 8th grade teachers will begin in the spring of 2023.


Foundation Course

All 7th and 8th grade teachers in participating schools engage in the online Foundations for Creative Engagement course to explore these questions through their own creative process: What is creativity and how am I creative? How can I foster conditions that support students’ creative engagement? What is the role and purpose of integrating drama-based and artistic practice in learning? How do I begin to make space for student creative engagement?


Theater Arts

Through this course, teachers explore how theater-based pedagogy can support embodied learning and personal meaning-making across curricular areas and grade levels. Theater integration includes short gestural routines and more elaborate theatrical enactments. Every technique is scaffolded carefully, starting with very basic warm-ups and theater games. Ultimately, the teacher becomes a designer and facilitator of theater integrated lessons that address both social-emotional and academic learning targets.

Learn More About other makeSPACE Theater Arts Course

Other Art Domains

makeSPACE includes strategies and routines in music, media arts, visual arts, and movement. 2-D and 3-D visual arts routines are highly adaptable and provide students other ways to access content and share ideas. Routines in rhythm, music, storymaking, and movement develop students’ active listening, focus, and engagement. Some of these integration strategies are built into explorations of theater arts integration and others are available for participants as optional extensions that support arts integrated instruction.

Learn More About other makeSPACE Art Domains


Advanced Arts Integration Design

This structured practicum supports teachers in more advanced integration of theater and other art domains, specific to their context. Teacher participants grow competency with designing and implementing quality arts integration by engaging in collaborative action research in a cohort of their creative colleagues. This participatory action research process supports teachers in creative experimentation with new strategies and offers them tools for observing the effects at the student level. Like all makeSPACE courses, it invites playfulness, risk-taking, observation and reflection. Teachers can also select additional modules from other arts domains to continue developing new skills.

Learn More About makeSPACE Advanced Art Integration Design

Course Previews


Foundation Course

The online Foundations for Creative Engagement course invites participants to explore these questions through their own creative process: What is creativity and How am I creative? How can I foster conditions that support student creative engagement? What is the role of artistic practice in learning? How do I begin to make space for student creative engagement?

“As an English teacher, metaphor was always just another content area to deliver during the year. This class has helped me see how it can be the entryway to deeper, creative, and engaging thought and understanding. It will be a foundational part of my future classes thanks to this course.” - makeSPACE teacher 



How can your students explore and represent complex concepts such as photosynthesis, democracy, metaphor, or algebra using only their bodies? In this course, we will delve into how theater and embodied learning can increase access to the curriculum and learning objectives in your classroom. It offers culturally responsive strategies that invite all students to engage, regardless of previous experience or proficiency in theater arts. Everything is scaffolded carefully, starting with the very basics of warm-ups and theater games. You will learn to design and facilitate theater-integrated lessons that support cognitive and affective learning targets. No theater experience is necessary! This is truly a foundational course that will support you to build the confidence and skills necessary to get your students out of their seats and into a collaborative, embodied process.

"Frankly, envisioning how I could implement tableaux and some of the other theater arts strategies in my classroom once we are back to something resembling "normal" has been one of the biggest motivating factors for me to want to keep teaching. I can't wait to see how my students respond, and I feel like it is going to bring a lot of energy and playfulness to my classroom and make learning more personally meaningful and transformative for my students (and me). " - makeSPACE teacher  


Classroom implementation goals

Year 1

  • Begin weekly creative routines in first half of Year 1 (2023-24) – target of 10 short theater routines (<10 minutes)
  • Begin full class period theater integration in second half of Year 1 – target of 5 class periods

Year 2

  • Implement weekly creative routines across the school year
  • Develop deeper theater integration into curricular unit as part of teacher-led action research – target of 10 class periods

Teacher engagement and expectations

  • 60 hours of professional development across two program years
  • Approximately 20 of those hours will be embedded into existing school-based PD
  • Approximately 40 hours of paid out-of-contract time
  • Teachers will receive stipends for the completion of makeSPACE Coursework, and for the after-school professional development sessions.
  • Teachers participating in makeSPACE School Leadership Teams will receive additional stipends.
  • Teachers participating in a makeSPACE School Team each year will receive an additional stipend

on vulnerability

"MakeSPACE encourages and cultivates teachers' creative confidence and ability to leverage the arts in teaching across subject areas, which leads to increased student engagement. This is a critical resource in ensuring that the School District of Philadelphia meets our goals and guardrails, which emphasize that every student will have a well-rounded education including the arts."

Frank Machos   
Executive Director for the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of the Arts & Creative Learning

This space is yours
Drawing by makeSPACE Teacher Michael Dodson

Partner Schools

John F. Hartranft Elementary
Jay Cooke Elementary
James G. Blaine Elementary
Castor Gardens Middle School
Samuel Gompers Elementary
Franklin Edmonds Elementary
General Philip Kearny Elementary
Marian Anderson Elementary
John H. Taggart School
Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences 
William C. Longstreth Elementary
Honorable Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary

Partner Organizations

logo: Children First PA
logo: Creative Engagement Lab
logo: Research For Action
logo: School District of Philadelphia

Contact Us

Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about the current grant opportunity or about the makeSPACE project.