It’s about 4 p.m. at Conger Elementary School in Delaware and about a dozen spies are crawling through the jungle when they hear a helicopter approach.
The spies flatten to ground as the helicopter passes over ahead and continue their sneaking around.
Suddenly, there’s a beat on a tambor drum and everyone freezes.
Drama Kids of North Columbus teacher Grant Gannon congratulates the students in the after-school drama club on a great exercise and gives them feedback on their performances.
Gannon met with the Conger students for an hour Monday afternoon for the first session in a six-week drama course.
“The whole point is to develop soft skills,” Gannon said, adding the drama club helps kids develop better eye contact, social skills and body language. “We’re just trying to get them more confident in themselves. We’re not trying to raise the next Shirley Temple. What we’re trying to do is improve confidence, make them better speakers, and let them have a place where they can be silly and have fun.”
On Monday, Gannon did a number of improvisational acting exercises with the students, including have them pretend to be spies in a jungle as a helicopter comes over, and dividing into teams and coming up with a scene involving a suitcase. For each exercise, Gannon stressed a different technique, such as articulation and projecting their voices.
Gannon, a graduate from Delaware Hayes High School, said he enjoyed connecting with his old school district when he started working with Drama Kids of North Columbus. Holly Hanson, the managing partner of Drama Kids of Northern Columbus, was also part of the lesson on Monday and gave kids feedback and ideas.
Hanson said that she started the North Columbus chapter of Drama Kids in 2015, because her kids were interested in acting, but had no where to get drama lessons.
“I wanted something in our area that taught them self-confidence on stage,” Hanson said. “I tried finding lessons and stumbled on this business and said, ‘Maybe I’ll just do it myself.’”
Hanson said the program started in Olentangy and is now in Dublin, Worthington and Delaware, with plans to move into Hilliard and Westerville.
“It’s for all kids, not just the kids who want to be on stage,” Hanson said. “For me, it’s about helping the kid in the back of the classroom, and my goal was to give that child enough confidence to ask a question without feeling intimidated.”
Hanson said there are programs running every day at various school districts.
“I think it’s an amazing one-of-a-kind program,” Gannon said. “It’s specifically aimed for kids in elementary school. There’s nothing else like that out there right now. It’s something we’re really passionate about, making sure the kids get these soft skills and just have that safe space to be creative and have fun.”
More information about the program, including future classes, can be found at www.dramakids.com/oh1.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.