In the middle of their classroom at Brookridge Elementary, second-graders were swirling, twirling, and striking a pose.
They kept moving as Harlan Brownlee, teaching artist played a drum set tambourine and invited students to move around the room. Once the drum stopped, students were encouraged to mimic a shape.
“I learned you can make more shapes than you ever thought you could,” Keverett Newberry, second-grader shared.
Brownlee was visiting the classroom as part of the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program. In recent weeks Brownlee offered a Professional Development session to Shawnee Mission educators focused on “Many Ways to Move Through the Curriculum.” He is visiting a select number of classrooms to work directly with some of the teachers who attended the session and their students.
Brownlee uses choreography and dance to help teachers and students use movement as a way to communicate. Through his guidance, students gain skill in self-regulation, control of their voice, imagination, practice in staying on task, and cooperation.
“We want to empower them with what is to create,” Brownlee said.
As the music played, Christi Sanders moved around the room doing the splits, backbends, and at one point imitating a lion and a circle. By following the instructor’s directions, Sanders said she learned about different types of movement that were possible and ways to relax her body.
“I really loved all of it,” Sanders expressed.
Once basic movements and instructions are learned, teachers can use the dance-based lessons to reinforce student understanding in a variety of subjects, Brownlee shared. For example, if students are learning about the sky and weather, they can dance mimicking types of clouds. If they are learning about the dessert or rain forest, they could mimic the animals that live in those habitats.
“It is a literacy,” Brownlee added. “If we don’t give you the alphabet, you can’t write with it. Practicing these dance steps helps teachers and students learn how to use this literacy.”
Now that this class is complete, second-grade teacher Stephanie Page anticipates using the method to help students study vocabulary words.
“The students responded very well and I am so impressed by their actions,” Page shared. “This has set up a foundation for learning we can build upon.”
The Kennedy Center Partners in Education program offered by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts works with the primary purpose of providing professional learning in the arts for teachers. The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation supports the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program to bring professional development to educators and arts-integrated educational opportunities to students.
“Arts integration, whether it is visual or performance, is about reaching students through different learning styles to help learning stick,” Megan Ellis, visual arts coordinator shared. “We are so lucky to have the Foundation support of this partnership and the opportunities it provides.”