Students work with their teacher to show balance and counterbalance.
Dance is fun, dance is artistic, dance is good exercise—but did you know that dance can improve students’ academic performance?
“He went from throwing the books to reading them…a lot of it was Hubbard Street,” said a classroom teacher at one of HSDC’s partner schools in the Movement As Partnership (MAP) program.
Since 1997 HSDC’s Education & Community Programs have been transforming the lives of thousands of students through their unique approach to dance education. “Budget cuts, growing class sizes and changing priorities have forced schools to reduce or eliminate arts programming and have resulted in diminishing creativity in the classroom,” said HSDC Education Director Kathryn Humphreys. “HSDC’s education programs not only restore art to the academic lineup, but our professional development programs provide teachers with the skills to implement innovative instructional methods and students with creative tools for problem-solving and expressing what they have learned. We are truly filling an important gap in the participating schools’ academic infrastructure.”
The signature initiative of HSDC education programming, MAP is a three-year model of supported professional development for teachers, residencies and performance. Among the elements of MAP that contribute to its success:
Classroom teachers work collaboratively with HSDC teaching artists to plan and implement the dance curriculum, experiencing the teaching methods as their students will and developing a deeper understanding of the structures and processes necessary for successful dance education.
HSDC staff members collaborate with classroom teachers to create unit and lesson plans that provide engaging inquiry for all participants, from teacher to teaching artist to student, while an administrative team from each partner organization ensures that all activities are supported and the partnership nurtured.
Most importantly, the creative process demands student engagement. The dance curriculum co-created in MAP classrooms places choreography and the creative process at the center of learning. Students must make choices about their work, creating and sharing with others. They build upon what they know while experimenting with possibilities. Feedback through critique and reflection directs revision and attention to purpose.
HSDC has designed specific strategies to facilitate student development of critical thinking skills. In addition to movement exercises and the creation of dance works, students use journals and logs to reflect on their learning and develop reading/writing skills. Inference is a particular focus of dance-literacy connections.
Inquiry is the foundation for the building of MAP curriculum. Teachers and teaching artists formulate a question that guides the development of specific lessons, creating a framework for instruction. Some examples:
How can movement help students compare and contrast how organisms affect and need each other in a given environment?
Can choreography help improve/clarify the students’ ideas about (understanding of) expository writing?
The MAP curriculum demands that students work together, integrate language and literacy, connect to their lives and provide challenging activities. Creating movement responses with others requires negotiation, collaboration and a visible effort. “They’re shy at first to contribute, but then they see that their piece is just as important as everyone else’s, so they become more powerful and less apprehensive in the classroom to try their new ideas,” notes one classroom teacher.
HSDC will discuss the program in more depth and share findings from a research study of MAP at a presentation for educators, funders, donors and arts education peers on January 27. The study was conducted by Louanne Smolin, Ph.D., a teacher educator and consultant who uses her background in curriculum, educational technology and the arts to investigate effective collaborative partnership practices, arts integration professional development and more.
After the first three years, MAP has demonstrated its success at participating schools. One teacher remarked, “In our writing lab…we’ve incorporated, as one of our assignments, a dance option for them to express whatever they’ve been studying…we’re doing biographies right now and one of their choices is to do a 32-count dance that explains or helps the students understand the person that they’ve researched.”
From an even broader perspective, the MAP model of collaborative planning has been influential for many teachers. Several MAP teachers have requested HSDC’s assistance in building future collaborations with outside partners, as well as adopting HSDC’s meeting structures within their schools’ collaborative practices with classroom teachers and arts specialists. Thus the program has much larger implications and potential benefits, both for HSDC and schools in Chicago and beyond.
Hubbard Street is grateful to the following funders for their support of our work in the schools: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, The Crown Family, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The Leo S. Guthman Fund, The MetLife Partners in Arts Education Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, Polk Bros. Foundation, The PrivateBank, Dr. Scholl Foundation, Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Charles & M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Siragusa Foundation and UBS. The MetLife Partners in Arts Education Program is funded by MetLife Foundation and administered by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.