Dance is one of the most powerful yet undervalued solutions for school reform. Children aged 5 to 11 are natural movers and are uncomfortable sitting at desks for long periods of time. Luckily, education doesn’t have to repress children’s desire to move! Learning and retaining information is most effective when children are active, listening, and expressing ideas physically in the space. The elementary curriculum lends itself to a natural synthesis with dance.
Leading educators and researchers in the United States agree. For instance, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities describes numerous studies that have "documented significant links between arts integration models and academic and social outcomes for students, efficacy for teachers, and school-wide improvements in culture and climate" (President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, Washington, DC, May 2011, p. 19). Dance is no longer an extracurricular activity, reserved for after-school study in private studios; it is relevant during the school day because the body is one of the primary ways children learn! Requiring students to sit still at their desks is unnecessary and doesn’t correspond to children’s natural inclinations.
Research indicates that 85 percent of school-aged learners are predominately kinesthetic learners (abllab.com/about-us/), making dance a natural fit in the elementary classroom. The lesson plans in this book provide field-tested dance integration activities in mathematics and science designed for both the classroom teacher as well as the dance specialist. The goal is enlivened classrooms that promote academic success and lifelong understanding for all students.
For more than a century, schools have been organized around distinct subject areas. During the typical school day a student will spend time studying various subjects, including math, science, social studies, communication arts, health, and physical education. The disciplines are distinct with little carryover between them. This structure of education isolates learning areas, consequently defining them as unrelated. What is the result of creating distinct lines between areas of study? Music scholar Janet Barrett (2001) writes, "Although educational institutions segment knowledge into separate packages called â€˜subjects,’ deep understanding often depends on the intersections and interactions of the disciplines" (p. 27).
Art and music, and occasionally drama and dance, are also taught as separate subjects. As a result of these divisions, school arts specialists frequently report feeling isolated from the rest of the curriculum. Arts curriculum expert Madeleine Grumet writes (2004), "Integrated arts programs have rescued the arts from educational cul-de-sacs where they have been sequestered . . . and they have rescued the academic curriculums from their dead ends in the flat, dull routines of schooling that leave students intellectually unchallenged and emotionally disengaged" (pp. 49-50).
Although the arts (visual art, dance, drama, music, and media arts) are legally defined as a core content area in U.S. education, they are commonly considered a special subject and are usually the first area to be cut to make room for something new. However, educators must never underestimate the power of the arts to inspire and delight children. Dance promotes endless pathways for children to create meaning and find fulfillment in learning.