Delaware Education: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Girl Power: Delaware’s schools and businesses are focusing on strengthening girls’ interest and performance in science, technology, engineering and math. Can they close the gap?



Illustration by Byron Eggenschwiler

If Delaware hopes to compete in science and math-related areas, it will need more Adrienne Johnsons and Rebecca Gillies.
The Middletown High School seniors like math and science courses and still find time to stay active in extracurricular activities.

Gillie, who plans to pursue a career as an engineer and scientist, comes from a family where both parents have science degrees and maintain a strong interest in the field.

“They share their knowledge with my siblings and me and encourage us. We follow news from the scientific community and discuss it,” she says. In addition to her interest in science, Gillie is a Middletown High School band member who also performs in school musicals.

Johnson credits her aunt, a veterinarian, with sparking her interest in science and medicine.

“Although I no longer want to be a veterinarian like my aunt, she was my greatest influence on choosing a career in science,” says Johnson, who has played varsity soccer since her freshman year and is now involved in student government. Her career goal is to become an anesthesiologist.

She also has built-in help when stumped. “My father is a math teacher at Mount Pleasant High School, so I could always go to him if I need help,” she says.

Though female students from families with such backgrounds are not rare in a state with a number of science-based organizations, education, government and businesses still face a major challenge.

Delaware officials are seeing weak performance in STEM classes (science technology, engineering and math), with females posting lower test scores than males.

Delaware and the nation also seem to be facing an enthusiasm gap when it comes to females pursuing STEM-related education and careers.

As Converge magazine noted in a story earlier this year, figures from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate the number of females earning bachelor’s degrees in computer science peaked at around 15,000 in the mid-1980s, but dropped to around 7,100 in 2010. The number of females earning master’s degrees in that specialty doubled to about 4,900 during the same period.

The lack of female STEM graduates could translate into fewer chances for female STEM stars, like DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, Facebook COO Sherry Sandberg and Marissa Meyer, a math whiz and veteran of Google who last summer became the chief executive of troubled online pioneer Yahoo.

Turning around the situation has become a top priority. In 2011 the Delaware STEM Council was formed by Gov. Jack Markell to address the issue.

Serving as a co-chair is Ted Kaufman, one of the few engineers to serve in the U.S. Senate. Kaufman used the brief stint in the legislative body to champion science and math as he served out the term of his former boss, Vice President Joe Biden.

The council issued its first report earlier this year amid growing concern about the performance of students in science and math studies.

“In releasing this report, we take a clear-eyed look at STEM education in our public schools, and we set out an aggressive agenda for improving it,” Kaufman writes in the report. “Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless Pre-K through higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed, and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.”

A subcommittee recommended that the council “work with other committees and the Delaware Department of Education to increase professional development for all school personnel.” That includes “combating negative stereotypes about women and minorities in STEM and showing students that by pursuing STEM careers they can make a positive difference in the community.”

Another recommendation is to create a STEM speakers bureau to connect students to STEM role models.

One outreach effort, now into its second year, is DigiGirlz, a one-day event to motivate eighth- and ninth-graders to pursue careers in STEM.

Middletown student Johnson says greater awareness would not be a bad thing. She notes that she was not aware of the term STEM until a year ago. Johnson goes on to suggest that more scholarships in STEM areas would point more students in the direction of math- and science-based careers.

 

Closing the Gap

The STEM Council took note of the achievement gap that includes females.

Fifty-eight percent of males who took a STEM Advanced Placement exam in 2010 passed it, but only 47 percent of female students passed.

In addition, when compared to neighboring states in the Middle States region, Delaware ranks near the bottom in passing advanced placement STEM examinations for “students overall and female and African-American students in particular.”

Kate Scantlebury, a chemistry and biochemistry professor and director of secondary education in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Delaware, says another issue centers on attitude.

“Attitudes toward science decline for males and females as they remain in school. However, the decline is greater for girls than for boys,” she says.

Also, when girls study science, it may be a goal other than a STEM career. Scantlebury points to one piece of research that indicates a group of female students studying physics did so to improve their college applications, but actually had little interest in the subject.

Gillie also sees a lack of understanding of the role of science and math.

“Some students enjoy science and math courses, while others find them to be too challenging, or boring,” she says. “Many don’t like the courses because you have to get the right answer and have correct work to back it up. Some don’t understand how the math is applicable to their life or care how the science works.”

At least one Delaware vocational-technical school district is seeing encouraging signs that the situation is changing.

“We do see increasing numbers of females in STEM-related programs and in higher-level science and math offerings. Females generally have achieved as high as, or higher, than their male classmates in these areas,” says Kevin Dickerson, director of support services for the Sussex Technical School District.

Dickerson says the district is not seeing peer pressure influencing female enrollment in math and science courses. According to Dickerson, peer pressure sometimes plays a role in the selection of a major, though signs point to a decrease in that tendency.

At Sussex Tech, all students complete a pathway major and a senior project as part of their graduation requirements. Students develop a success plan that allows an exploration of careers and education after graduation.

The technical high school districts in each of the state’s three counties offer a number of science-based concentrations for students. The state’s newest technical high school, St. Georges in southern New Castle County, offers a biotechnology major.

 

A Critical Need

The shortage of females pursuing STEM-related careers has been a concern for years at science-based employers.

DuPont Co. is active on a number of fronts, both in Delaware and around the world. Kullman champions STEM efforts on a state and national level and even earned a STEM Women All Star designation, complete with a trading card. It’s part of a national effort to attract women to science and math-centered careers.

In January Kullman was joined by Facebook executive Sandberg in presenting an education section of a report to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitivenes.

“Companies are struggling to fill available jobs with skilled workers even while Americans are unemployed. We can and must ensure we provide our citizens the education and skills to compete in the global economy and ensure U.S. companies have a skilled workforce. In this report we lay out a roadmap for excellence,” Kullman told President Barack Obama and members of the council.

She also said the “recommendations span from preschool through universities and community colleges and call on the private sector, government at all levels and the public to work together to address this critical need.”

DuPont’s research history shows the value of attracting more females into STEM-related areas.

A towering figure at the company is Stephanie Kwolek, who discovered DuPont’s blockbuster product Kevlar at the company’s Experimental Station near Wilmington more than four decades ago.

The strong, lightweight material is best known for protecting law enforcement officers from bullets, but it has also made its way into smartphones, lightweight armor for vehicles and passenger jets.

Essential in the effort are female teachers. Scantlebury, of the University of Delaware, says progress is being made in attracting more women science and math teachers who have the potential to inspire girls and push them toward STEM careers.

With the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, UD operates Project Smart, an initiative that works to identify potential science and math teachers.

Aspiring teachers get the opportunity to work with teachers in STEM-related subjects and participate in research projects.

Delaware State University offers the Science and Math Initiative for Learning Enrichment (SMILE). The DSU program features new student orientation for STEM majors and a STEM training camp, as well as peer mentors and peer leaders. The program also offers the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research.

The work at a state level continued last summer when more than 400 elementary, middle and high school teachers, administrators and business leaders were on hand for the first STEM Institute in Delaware.

Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Education in partnership with the Delaware Science Coalition, the event at Clayton Hall featured workshops and other events aimed at better preparing students for college and STEM careers.

Nationally, there has been concern over shortages of science and math teachers of either genders. Scantlebury says some parts of the country are doing better than others when it comes to finding teachers.

Delaware has taken steps to ease a long-running problem of school districts not being able to hire new teachers in STEM and other areas until the state budget was approved in late June. That aided neighboring states with fewer restrictions. Local districts can now hire earlier in the year through the use of funding estimates.

Not always a part of the conversation on STEM is the role of private schools in easing gender and ethnic gaps.

National data is sketchy, though past reports have shown higher achievement levels at private schools, a driving force for many parents willing to pay tuition.

In the meantime, enrollment in Delaware private schools peaked at 33,000 in 2003, but fell to 26,600 during the difficult economic year of 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

During that period, the state reported growing enrollment in charter schools, which get public funding for operating expenses but have more flexibility than their public counterparts in curriculum, teacher hiring and other areas.

Charter School of Wilmington, in particular, has focused on attracting students with skills and motivation in pursuing STEM-based education.


 

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

Cost: $2

Where:
Aetna Fire Hall
400 Ogletown Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: A2Z Promotions
Telephone: 302-983-2636
Contact Name: Bob Harper
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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Come give curling a try! At this 2-hour intro-to-curling event we'll provide a basic lesson then coach you through a mini-game.  Whether you just want to cross #curling off your bucket list or...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
Website »

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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Dover
Building A Auditorium
3282 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

Cost: $40

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

Where:
Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA  19103
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Sponsor: Lyric Fest
Telephone: 215-438-1702
Contact Name: Jessica Nelson
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Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

Where:
John Dickinson High School Auditorium
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
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The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

Where:
, DE

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

More information

MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Website »

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