The 1st graders of Ms. Stacy Hoban’s classroom at Laurel Elementary School of Arts and Technology are learning about soils in their science unit. Katie McClendon, CSU Dance Major and Early Childhood Education major is helping them to explore the lesson through movement. “Getting so small is hard! I understand what compaction is!” (1st grader). Feeling the difference in texture of the different soil types, moving their bodies to compare sizes, getting up from their desks, and interacting with their classmates “wakes” up their brains to learn holistically, have fun, and most importantly, offer diverse ways to learn the material. In a school with more than 65% on free and reduced lunch, approximately 25% ELD (English Language Development) learners and 10% with special needs, (Laurel, 2016), offering lessons in a variety of ways is critical to reach and serve each child.
Dance Education is increasingly on the minds of Dance majors at CSU. Job opportunities after graduation frequently involve teaching dance, whether in a private studio, as part of a professional dance company outreach program or within the public school system. The Colorado State Board of Education voted, in 2014, to approve an Endorsement for Dance. This means if you have a Teaching Certificate for the state of Colorado, you may apply for an Endorsement to also teach Dance. The need and opportunities for teaching positions for dance programs in Colo. K-12 schools has increased. “The new strategy comes as interest in arts integration is growing nationally, driven in part by increasing research that points to academic, social and personal benefits for students”, said Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership. “Studies show that employing the arts in academic classrooms is associated with improvement in test scores in math and English. In particular, students living in poverty benefit from the integrated approach” she said.
The excited, focused energy in the room is testament to the students’ learning. Students are engaged, sharing their observations with each other, as well as the teacher, and having fun dancing about soil particles! Laurel Elementary School of Arts and Technology Principal Tommi Sue Cox has supported the CSU Dance program partnership for the past seven years, inviting CSU students to work closely with classroom teachers, developing movement lessons around their regular curriculum. CSU works with several other elementary and secondary schools in the Poudre School District and Thompson School District. Teachers and administrators see the benefits of integrating the arts across the curriculum, helping to make the content more meaningful and deepen student learning.
The CSU Dance program also now offers a professional development seminar for K-12 teachers during the summer at the UCA. Through the generous support of the Carl A. Bimson Humanities Seminar series and the College of Liberal Arts, CSU faculty and invited guests from around the region gather to offer hands-on experiential workshops, current research on movement and education and useful resources for teachers to implement and share at their schools. CSU students also have the opportunity for a paid internship as support staff for the seminar as well as shared presentations.
We are thankful to the Colorado Department of Education for their enduring support to see more dance programs in the schools and support the continued work we do here at CSU. We are proud to offer our students diverse experiences in training and work experience for a successful transition once they graduate from CSU.