Dance to Learn From a Teacher’s Perspective

Ordway 11/2/17

We recently kicked off our 2017-2018 Dance to Learn dance education program! We love this program because it allows us to partner directly with schools in our community to promote arts-based learning. But rather than just sharing our perspective, we brought in someone who’s seen Dance to Learn in action: Pam Winkler, first grade teacher at Matoska Elementary and three-year program participant! Check out our interview with Pam below:

How would you describe the Dance to Learn program?

Dance to learn is an integrated, dynamic program that works with a school’s culture while introducing new ways of looking at movement and dance.  Dance to Learn has been a vehicle to not only teach our students about dance but also how to focus, how to take a brain break, and as teachers, how to integrate some of the essentials of dance into our teaching.  Dance to Learn also allows students to experience dance as individuals, and to work as a team in a creative way.  Brian Evans, our Dance to Learn Teaching Artist, works with the students and teachers to create a unique program that is specific to our school!

What do you think sets Dance to Learn apart from other programs?

While I think Dance to Learn comes with some basic tenants of dance, it is a program that changes and adjusts to what the school, teacher and student needs are.  At our school, Brian has been great at integrating what we are focusing on in IB with his lessons.  Other programs and/or curriculums that we introduce to students are often specific and static. Dance to Learn is flexible and changes with the needs of the school as well as our specific classrooms each year.

A class participating in Dance to Learn at Matoska Elementary in April 2017

What do you think the impact of have a teaching artist in your classroom has on your students?

The impact is multilevel.  Students get to know Brian, our artist, very well.  They are excited to see him and to learn what he will teach them.  Students begin to make connections beyond the individual lessons; they link what they are learning to new situations whether that be something in art or in another subject like math (dance tempo) or science (naming specific muscles used in dance).  Dance to learn isn’t just surface learning; it is deeper learning.

How do students and teachers react to the Contemporary Dance performance you attend at the Ordway as part of the program?

Without the Dance to Learn program students and staff would appreciate performances only at a surface level.  Dance to Learn students interact with the performance.  They recognize levels, skills and finesse of dance along with the nuances that come with creating a performance.  The appreciation for what they see on stage is more complex.  Students see the physical aspects of the dance and appreciate the aesthetic in different ways.  Additionally, they begin to interpret the meaning of the dance.  Dance to Learn gives them the tools to appreciate the dance on stage and personalize it by making connections to their own life.

What is one moment from Dance to learn storied form your experience with Dance to Learn over the last 2 years that has stayed with you?

Initially you always have one or two students who are resistant to dance for a variety of reasons.  Brian always finds a way to get them to participate along with the class and by the end of our sessions with Brian, they are fully participating with the rest of the class.   One child in my class who was very reticent at the beginning, was up at the end hugging Brian and telling him he wanted to be a dancer when he grew up and that he loved dancing!

Last year at the Dance to Learn Kick-off performance we introduced Brian as our artist. Students immediately found a connection to him.  They were up hugging him after the performance.  Brian was very open to conversation and helped the kids establish a personal connection to him as “our artist”.  It  brought the connection to another level.   The kids didn’t see Brian as a person they would just see once at a performance, instead they saw him many times in their classrooms throughout the year.   He became part of their learning environment.  In fact, even students who didn’t experience Dance to Learn saw Brian around our school and that helped to build even more bridges to art, dance and the Ordway.

Students participating in Dance to Learn at Matoska Elementary in April 2017

How are you working your school and Parent Teacher Organization?

Our Parent Teacher Organization is really supportive of the Arts and very excited about the Dance to Learn program in our school.  Last spring our team of teachers participating in Dance to Learn and the Ordway presented an idea to the PTO to support an event to bring families from our school to the Ordway for a Dance performance.  Many families in our school wouldn’t have the opportunity to go without this collaborative event.  In collaboration with the Ordway we are hoping to offer families transportation to the Ordway paid for by our PTO, and a discounted ticket to the Diavolo performance at the Ordway in October!  We hope this will help families see the connection with the Ordway and the Dance to Learn program at school as well as help them connect more with the field trip experience their children are having with the Ordway.

How has Dance to Learn impacted your classroom and teaching?

I’ve always been a big support of the arts. Dance to Learn has given me one more way to show my kids a way to express themselves and also personalize what they see on stage.  We talk a lot with our kids about what makes a performance – the sets, lighting, sound, and the team backstage that puts on the performances.

I feel the more we can be exposed and interact with arts the more it connects us with our life and our world. The Ordway offers a myriad of multi-cultural experiences that our students really enjoy!

We are very grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Ordway.  It started at our school very organically with just a few classes coming to the Ordway.  Now there are multiple classes from multiple grade levels taking advantage of the opportunities.  These experiences give us all opportunities to make a small world a little broader!

I hope others are taking advantage of the opportunities too!

Visit our Dance to Learn page to find out more about the program and learn how schools in your community can get involved.

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