Each of our elementary and middle school grades chose a biome to study for an open house event, our Eco Fair. The company dancers came in pairs, with one set of dancers working with Monday/Wednesday classes and the other pair working with Tuesday/Thursday classes. Middle school students worked with both pairs and did two different pieces for the same biomes. The dancers were amazing. They studied the assigned biomes in advance and came thoroughly prepared and knowledgeable. They also came with particular images with which students worked to create new movement and choreography. Our biggest challenges were missing students due to testing and sports events--scheduling.
This year dancers set higher expectations, seeing that the kids outdid themselves last year, and this year they surpassed those expectations! For example, this year they had the responsibility of transitioning onto the stage and memorizing their piece well enough to do it on their own. They owned it! When you tell students, "we need to have a finished product that you feel strong about...", they are motivated to see the project through. Focus was not on teaching the students dance and dance alone but on challenging them to learn a subject using a new medium; in this case that medium is movement. They have such patience and bravery. Rarely does any one student complain about not being able to do or try a movement or movement concept. This project gives the students an opportunity to explore. There is no right or wrong when they are creating movements. The freedom allowed also challenges them to think about their theme or subject matter from a new angle; promoting critical thinking. This project also asks them to be social and utilize teamwork skills in order to have a finished product in such a short amount of time.
In our effort to allow the kids to experience an art form they may not have before, we took a more improvisational approach to dance. We explored many concepts of each biome while also showing students how ideas can be taught alternatively. We focused on how we can not only look at dance through the lens of these ideas but also how we can explore these ideas through the lens of dance. By allowing them to show us how they saw the material, they engaged with it in a new way, and put their own "spin" on it. Our work culminated in a 45 minute student production presented to their community and peers. Nothing compares to the excitement and appreciation that could easily be seen on the students' faces during this performance. Their comprehension and desire to share and apply their knowledge was an utter joy.
One high point was seeing the kids watch each other at the performance--their faces were filled with pride--and once each group sat down, they complimented each other and watched the next group with quiet attention.
Not only is this project able to be recreated but it can also be adjusted and manipulated to work with nearly any subject taught in schools.
Our goals with this project were multifaceted. We wanted to reiterate lessons learned about the biomes of the world by having each group of students dissect, symbolize, and create a dance about the biome that was assigned to their grade group. Another goal was to create an environment that challenged students' concept about where and how learning takes place. Through dance students deepened their scientific understanding of the world and though this project students also explored the world of dance. Neither subject was held higher than the other and this showed students that different subjects can be taught and learned together.
(Dance 1., 2., 4., 5.)