A new Baltimore public school program encourages dance and science teachers to think alike.

Katie Wright-Sabbatino (left) and Science With Dance in Mind teachers improvise about photosynthesis.

“Try standing up without applying Newton’s laws,” says dance educator Rima Faber to a group of teachers. “You have to push down on the floor to go up, you have to overcome inertia, you have to overcome the force of the propulsion to stop your constant motion. Just getting up out of your chair applies all the major laws.” Through simple activities like this, Faber has been encouraging a team of Baltimore teachers to teach science through dance. The collaboration has resulted in a new program called Teaching Science With Dance in Mind that will be launched in three Baltimore public schools this fall.

Faber, who helped found the National Dance Education Organization and served as its program director until she retired this year in June, has been passionate about teaching science through dance since the 1970s, when she developed movement exercises to help her daughter grasp concepts that she couldn’t understand through verbal instruction alone. Faber and others, including Anne Green Gilbert in Seattle, have promoted movement as a key to academic learning for years. But what makes this project unique, says Faber, is that the aesthetics of dance are as important as scientific understanding. “They are given equal treatment,” she says. “Usually the art gets forfeited in favor of the academic goals. But here they are mutually respected.”

Faber pursued the idea for this program last year when she learned of a Maryland-based nonprofit group that gave grants for experiential approaches to science education. She figured getting the funding would be a long shot since the organization, Hands-On-Science, had never funded a dance project and, due to the economic downturn, was about to shut its doors. Still, she decided to try and argued her case passionately. “I invited them to move forward to the 21st century by bringing science into a new realm of pedagogy that involved kinesthetic learning,” says Faber. Hands-On-Science, impressed by her arguments and syllabus, included her project in their final granting cycle.

Previously, Faber had created dance and science lessons by asking science teachers for a list of concepts that students were having trouble understanding. Then she’d devise isolated movement exercises to help. But with the Hands-On-Science funds, Faber has been able to design a more extensive approach that addresses a breadth of concepts included in Baltimore County’s science curriculum.

She has also been able to partner with two other Baltimore-based dance educators: Suzanne Henneman, who oversees the dance curriculum for the Baltimore County Public Schools, and Katie Wright-Sabbatino, an arts integration specialist who currently teaches second grade.

From the start, Faber knew she wanted the project to involve classroom teachers as well as dance specialists. One goal was to train dancers to teach science—but she also wanted science teachers to understand dance and to be able to use it as a teaching tool. “The ultimate goal is to get science teachers to automatically think of movement as a part of their lexicon of learning possibilities,” she says. “That’s what will give this longevity.”

From January through May, Faber held training sessions that provided five dance specialists and five science/general ed teachers with necessary skills. The classes tied elements of dance—space, direction, shape, levels, rhythm, timing, phrasing and movement quality—to

scientific ideas. For example, when discussing quality of movement, Faber brought in scarves and beanbags and asked participants to describe how the objects fell—heavy, fast and direct for the beanbags and drifting, gentle, slow for the scarves. They translated these qualities into movement and also used the differences to discuss physical forces like gravity and air resistance.

After their initial training, each dance specialist was paired with a science teacher to collaboratively create movement exercises that they’ll teach as a team in primary or middle-school classrooms this fall. The teachers began by identifying parts of Baltimore’s science curriculum that they thought would be best served by dance and then worked with the dance specialists to create movement to go with those concepts. The 10 participants will

continue meeting as a group throughout the school year to discuss and assess their progress.

The teachers involved in the project have become an enthusiastic, close-knit group and are excited about this project’s potential to help a variety of students. “Some kids just don’t learn verbally, but when they experience something, they get it,” says Faber. “Without approaches like this, those children fall through the cracks. And even those who do learn well verbally enjoy this method.” Wright-Sabbatino agrees. “We think of science as being physical and concrete, but sometimes it can be very abstract,” she says. “Dance connects you to an idea and makes you feel it from the inside.” DT

 

Emily Macel is writing a book about Erick Hawkins. She lives and writes in Washington, DC.

Photo by Rima faber

 

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy of Forance

While Teddy Forance admits that performing with commercial artists like Lady Gaga and Madonna, and in front of 30,000 people, is exhilarating, he is personally drawn to more abstract music when he choreographs. It's a preference that sometimes confounds his contemporaries. "Some of my friends will ask, 'How do you choreograph to music that sounds like silverware fighting?'" he says. "I just tell them one sound at a time," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

Dance students aren't the only ones who get to spend their summers learning new skills and refining their dance practice. Studio owners and administrators can also use the summer months to scope out new curriculum ideas, learn the latest business strategies and even earn a certification or two.

At Dance Teacher Web's Conference and Expo, attendees will spend July 29–August 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada learning everything from new teaching methods to studio management software. And as if the dance and business seminars weren't enough, participants can also choose from three certifications to earn during the conference to help expand their expertise, generate new revenue and set their studios apart:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Julianna D. Photography, courtesy of Abreu

Although Rudy Abreu is currently JLo's backup dancer and an award-winning choreographer—his piece "Pray" tied for second runner-up at the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and a variation of the piece made it to the finals on NBC's "World of Dance"—he still finds time to teach. Especially about how he hears music.

Keep reading... Show less
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: Our dancers' parents want to observe class, but students won't focus if I let them in the room. I've tried having them observe the last 10 minutes of class, but even that can be disruptive and bring the dancers' progress to a halt. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

James Payne, director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, starts class each day by asking students how they feel. "If they're collectively hurting, and I know that the day before they were working hard on something new, I might lessen the intensity of the class," he says. "I won't slow it down, though. Sometimes it's better to move through the aches and get to the other side."

A productive class depends, in part, on how well it is paced. If you move too slow, you risk losing students' interest and creating unwanted heaviness. Move too fast and dancers might not fully benefit from combinations or get sufficiently warm, increasing their risk of injury. But even these guidelines may differ depending on the students' age and level. Good pacing is a delicate balance that can facilitate mental and physical growth, but it requires good planning, close observation and the ability to adapt mid-class.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, you're the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don't even think about. But what if you had someone to help you, someone who could take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands, freeing you up to focus on what you love?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Derek and Julianne Hough via @juleshough on Instagram

Here at Dance Teacher, we LOVE a talented dance family. Something about parents and siblings passing their passion for dance down to those who come after them just warms our hearts.

While there are many sets of talented siblings across all genres of dance, ballroom seems to be particularly booming with them.

Don't believe us? Check out these four sets of ballrooms siblings we can't take our eyes off of. Their parents have raised them right!

This is far from a comprehensive list, so feel free to share your favorite sets of dance siblings over in our comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Roxey Ballet

This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Shared via Dance Teacher Network Facebook

I'm a part of a popular group on Facebook called Dance Teacher Network which consists of dance teachers across the country discussing and sharing information on all things dance. Yesterday morning, I spotted a photo shared in the group of four smiling young boys in a dance studio. And I couldn't help but smile to myself and think, "Wow, I never had that...that's pretty damn amazing."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Marr

When Erica Marr discovered ballroom dancing in her late teens, she instantly fell in love with the Latin beats and strong drum lines that challenged her musicality. After shifting her focus away from contemporary and jazz, she began studying with elite ballroom coaches in New York City and quickly earned a World Championship title in her division.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox