Tag Archives: seasons

Moving Connections: My Work at Michael R. White

Positive classroom experiences are the foundation for creating a passion and love of learning for both students and teachers.

As a dance educator I often have some explaining to do when I begin a residency.  Since most teachers have only had experiences with visual artists, they often wonder how PAA could use dance as a means to teach science. Teachers are also often curious about motivating students to dance and how they make up their own movements. The reactions are mixed  at times ranging from “Ok, sounds fine”, to “Wow, this is exciting.” Working at Michael R. White elementary school for the first time and also working with a new and condensed schedule, my task was to integrate the standards with dance and movement in five sessions.

Working with young children can sometimes be like herding cats, but it gets easier once you get to know your dancers. I use modern technique and creative movement games as my main methods of instruction and attempt to relate them as closely to their studies as possible. One group  I worked with focused on different habitats and their respective inhabitants.


In one instance we used swinging motion to connect with the movement of an elephant’s trunk. Swinging their arms freely and lively as if they were in the savannah themselves, the kids seemed to grasp the movement concept right away. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re getting the idea until much later in the residency, but this time it became readily apparent that they were obviously expert elephants and I had delightfully underestimated their pachyderm prowess. I just loved their eventual observations too. When I asked the class what their favorite movement was one boy eagerly remembered the swinging motion and shared that  doing it slowly made him feel like an elephant’s trunk in the savannah.  This particular boy doesn’t answer many questions in the classroom and is often out of his seat. I could tell by the way he explained his answer, the enthusiasm that he conveyed though his gestures and facial expression, that he really got the movement concept we were striving for. I think dancing and movement helped calm his mind and made him better able to connect with the material. That’s the kind of success I look for, and I couldn’t stop smiling.


Another group of students I worked with was the kindergarteners, and we danced about the features of the seasons. Talk about adorable! When we began they couldn’t stand in straight lines much less relate what science standard we were focusing on. By the fifth class though the vast majority knew all of the seasons and had learned new routines and movements. More importantly, the classroom teacher felt that dancing was a memorable experience for them, and it provided success for certain students who often struggled.


My favorite moments during residencies are the interactions that spark both personal and intellectual connection. The students love when the teachers join us in the circle to warm up or play our improvisation games. Watching students grasp concepts and demonstrate understanding through abstract interaction is invigorating. Students choreographing and being so excited that they want to teach their peers brings a true sense of joy to my heart.


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Bringing the Seasons Together with Ebooks and Images

Read about the start of this project here.

Malik enjoying his Fall Background!

Malik enjoying his Fall Background!

The green screen residency at Orchard STEM finished up beautifully, with each kindergartener typing and creating their own ebooks about the seasons as displayed in their green screen photos (as seen above). The students typed sentences about each specific season’s weather, such as “Winter is very cold.” The ebooks served as a challenge to the kindergarteners, as very few of them had typed with an iPad before. I also noticed that several of them were confused by the iPad’s font and capitol letters, and those students subsequently had more trouble with the spelling than those who had used iPads or Apple technology more frequently. We were very lucky to have 8th graders come down and assist each team individually with the intricacies of spelling and grammar during the final session.

As this was my very first in- school residency as the instructor as apposed to the assistant, I was nervous to complete the project on time! The addition of a fire drill on the second to last session was a bit nerve-wracking, but the students were exceptionally eager to learn about and create their ebooks using their own images, and the results displayed the focus they gave to this project.


An 8th grader assisting several students with completing their ebooks

I could not have completed this residency without assistance from Stephen Phillips, who saw the project through to the end with myself and the kindergarteners. Also, many thanks to the PAA office for printing all of the images and ebooks for the class. These kindergarteners are bright and thoughtful, and I have learned so much about teaching from them. When I first started the residency, the students had not yet learned their seasons. It was an amazing thing to have students coming up to me in snow boots towards the end of my residency, telling me how it was really winter outside because of the cold and the snow! Orchard STEM School has recently won a grant for each student to receive an iPad, and I am looking forward to seeing how the kindergarteners use this technology in the classroom beyond this project.

Assisting a student with his Ebook.

Assisting a student with his ebook.

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