Luna’s first Dance & The Brain Conference was a great success! Classroom teachers, dance teaching artists, parents, therapists and performers traveled from all parts of California to participate in this unique collaborative learning experience. Ann Law presented body-mind connectivity through a creative experience called What is a Folk Dance? “I didn’t quite know what I expected to get from this, nor what I will put to immediate use with my students, but I am returning transformed,” stated one dance teacher from Riverside. Presenting one of the longest case studies on creativity, James Catterall shared his process and the preliminary findings of his work with the Centers for Research on Creativity. CROC’s surprise findings were nothing new to dance educators–children engaged in the arts exhibited increased collaboration, empathy and self-efficacy. After lunch, Pamela Wolfberg, originator of Integrated Play Groups, shared her work with children with autism. Her presentation revealed that children with autism learn through play, social interaction and movement. We de-briefed at the end of the day and confirmed the confluence and importance of relationship, play and movement to both the brain and creativity. This project was provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with additional support from the Capezio Dance Foundation and the Louis Borick Foundation.
As a national leader in arts education, Luna has been sharing the most current practices of teaching dance to children of all abilities, as well as Universal Design for Learning principles, to teachers and dance educators for more than a decade. Currently, under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, we are bringing these best practices to the forefront of our work through comprehensive professional development. Our PL services and Model programs work in tandem to generate thoughtful approaches to classroom techniques and teaching strategies to improve student performance. Teaching artists, classroom teachers and para-professionals partner together to support student learning in advanced dance concepts using an inquiry approach that continues to “push the envelope” of what creativity might look like in inclusive dance settings. This year we are working with three classrooms at Grass Valley Elementary School, Oakland Unified School District. We also continue our work at West Lake Middle School, presently teaching twice weekly classes. The classroom teachers and para-professionals receive active coaching to keep dance alive in the school setting, as well as integrate arts curriculum as makes sense in the classroom. This is truly paying off! At West Lake, the special day students are the stewards of dance learning at the school and have presented their original work in public settings such as at the Lake Merritt Pavilion. What we learn from our practice supports the theory and approaches shared in our PL offerings–workshops, lesson studies and consultations. In fall of this year we had the pleasure of a full panel of professionals addressing dance and disability, followed by workshops on neurological patterning and dance, UDL and cultural competency and individual consultations to dance educators working with classrooms of children who are deaf, blind or autistic and adults with Parkinson’s. The interest in this work continues to grow and we are looking forward to similar offerings in 2013-14. Read MORE about Luna’s work with children with special needs in the Tilden Case Study.
Outcomes & Process: With support from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Trust, Luna has been working with former Summer Institute participants to build cultures of dance in Southern California. The goals of this process were 1) to leverage the relationships forged through Luna’s SIs to create professional learning communities of dance education in Southern California. This would create a level of autonomy as professionals in that region could support and rely on each other; share resources; and develop their skills in a more immediate, organic, grass-roots manner. 2) to develop leadership skills among the core cadres. 3) to broaden Luna’s reach to improve teaching practice by holding a Summer Institute in Southern California July 2012 and smaller introductory workshops prior to that time to identify potential participants. 4) to develop SoCal educators to create and implement MPACT-like programs in partnership with social service agencies in the region.
Impact: To date, all objectives have been met and many exceeded. All participants have increased their confidence in leadership and instructional methods. Despite radical budget shifts in public school education, and their ensuing re-classifications out of dance teaching and into general education, these dedicated dance professionals are keeping dance alive in their teaching settings, educating their non-dance peers about the value of dance and keeping their own skills sharp. Jill Sethi, working at Carlos Santana Academy, has provided professional learning opportunities for her K-5 colleagues, implemented an afterschool action research project that demonstrated improved attendance and test scores for students who receive dance, and is currently exploring the place for family dance within the school community. Meg Glaser Teran, southern California project coordinator, trained to teach MPACT-like classes, created a program and curriculum and piloted a successful session of classes at the Wooden Floor in Santa Ana. More than 12 families of 30 individuals participated in the entire 6-weeks. Parents report that they appreciated the opportunity to carve out time to play and dance with their children, that they learned how to observe them better, and that they began to see the value of improvisation to dance learning, play and life. Ruth Torres also trained in MPACT and has shared her curriculum widely. You can read more about Ruth’s class at http://www.artsforla.org/blogs/experiential-advocacy-creating-arts-advocates-through-dance/
Challenges: The primary challenge to creating professional learning communities of dance educators in southern California is the geographic landscape of the region. Already, LAUSD and itinerant dance educators drive hundreds of miles each week just to do their job. Their hunger for support and collegiality conflicts with their desperate need to spend time at home. While all educational professionals have similar dilemma’s, most of us do not have to drive 100 miles to meet with colleagues. The core cadre is exploring ways to use technology to help, and they are trying to alternate host places to make it possible for more to participate more readily. Another challenge remains job insecurity for all California educators who are living and working in a time of huge budget cuts and a lack of political and social will to do what is right for our state’s children.
UPDATE 10/18/12: Learn more of their work as they present at this year’s NDEO conference October 25-27 in Los Angeles.
UPDATE 12/11/13: This project developed into a statewide initiative to create MPACT-like, family dance programs led by participants in the original Building Cultures of Dance project. The Dizzy Feet Foundation funded the project that included 239 family dance programs taught by 6 dance teaching artists coached and mentored by Luna faculty. More than 2,221 children and families engaged in relationship-based dance over the past year. Participants reported the following outcomes: increased connection and bond, seeing each other in new ways, the gift of time to play and move together. Classes were taught in Spanish and English with classes in Marin City including families speaking 7 different languages. Teaching artists reported increased confidence in the ability to create curricula, engage parents and problem solve with community partners.
“It is surprising to see a class that has made us feel unique each one of us with our children. I have had the opportunity to get to know my daughter better and understand what she does in her dance. It is a beautiful experience because sometimes we don’t know how to identify what our children are expressing to us, verbally or physically. Because of this [experience], I now know this, it was very useful to me to be able to apply this with my daughter and with my other children. Thank you.” -mother of 4
“I learned a little bit about the movement of the body, the importance of contemporary dance.” -mother
“It’s really enjoyable that we can let loose here.” -father
Outcomes & Process: Beginning January 2011, Luna has partnered with ASI alumnae Erica Rose Jeffrey and the Marin City-Sausalito Parent Center to develop a family dance program for the community. Impact: This program will allow Marin County to build capacity for dance teaching for ALL children. Torri Campbell, a dancer and therapist, is learning to teach parent-child classes and will take over the program in 2012. Other professionals have already expressed interest in the training, expanding the dance resources available in the region.
New Highland Academy is the first public elementary school in the state of California to have articulated, year-long, standards-based dance curriculum for EVERY child. Learn more about this Oakland Unified School District dance miracle!
Luna’s special needs inquiry team asked “what does creativity look like for children with autism and other special needs?” Five years at Tilden Elementary, a designated inclusion school in Oakland, California, revealed a great deal about bringing standards-based dance to children with and without special needs.
Dance teaching artist, Rosemary Robertson, completed our MPACT internship at the end of 2009. A third year of supervised teaching has brought parent-child dance classes to dozens of families living in south Alameda County.
The first phase of Luna’s action-research project on parent-child engagement through dance had a dramatic impact on our dance teaching practice.