27 June 2008

When we are laughhing, we are learning.

"Movement is as necessary to mental and
physical development as food."

-- Grace Nash

What a week it’s been, and what a life changing experience had been to attend the
“Arts for Learning Tools for Teaching” teacher's workshop at UNF last week.
I could say that I had been accomplished one of my summer's self development goals.
There were many interesting nuggets I took with me from this experience and I now will like to share with you.
One of the most outstanding programs I have ever attended in my professional life was, with out a doubt, a program called “Creative Movement as a Learning Tool” led by the Rachael Carnes, founder and executive director of Sparkplug Dance, an Oregon based non-profit organization that makes creative dancing available to students of all ages, abilities and incomes. Sparkplug Dance, is dedicated to make learning fun for everyone trhough dance.

During the course of 3 ½ hours we learned different ways to apply creative dancing in basically any type school subjects, such as math, language arts, science, foreign languages a social sciences. We also learned about the richness of folk music around the world and the endless possibilities to combine movements and sounds together.
Our class group was quite large, I would say around 75 teachers from different Duval county private and public schools.
Creative dancing is a "concept- based dance style" that uses kinestetic routines and dance elements to engage students in a different way of learning experience.
Rachael called us "dancers", even though most of the attendantes had never taken a dance class in their life. We felt total freedom in expressing ourselves and moving our bodies in multiple ways acording to different music sounds and beats.
We created geometric shapes with stretchy bands, we glided, wiggled our arms and legs, and bounced. We learned about free flow and bound flow. We represented "Natural Disasters" forces by using elements such as space, time, force and body. We also learned about On-Balance and Off Balance movements.

One of the experience I enjoyed the most at this programs was when were given an abstract painting to observed and to identify the concepts of size: big, medium and small. A dance creation will follow this. Our choreography looked quite professional at would say. The logistics of it were more impressive, since the total activity completion time did not lasted more than 3 minutes. As closing activity, our facilitator presented us with a basket full of plants and flowers she had previously picked up outside of the building. We all sated around the floor forming large circle and everyone grabbed on plant or flower and placed it in the middle of the circle as we sumarazied our perception of the whole experience in one word. As each of us completed this task, we realized that we had created a beautiful masterpiece full of color and textures.
We were all mesmerized! What a sense of tranquility!

I was very pleased to see every body learning to dance a very familiar Israeli tune for me that represented the movement of water ( MAYIM, MAYIM.)
I have danced this tune ever since I was a child, but this had been the only time I have actually “felt” like a drop of water dancing around.
Creative movement will be for sure a great tool for my Bible and Hebrew language teaching this new school year. I am already working on some creative movement based on major idea concepts in my curriculum.
One of the challenges Rachael said we teachers could encounter when using creative dancing for the first time in their classroom is that the kids today are not familiar with their body movements, especially boys. Also, kids are self conscious of them selves and may have some false imagery of themselves, especially in the teen age group.
This is an area that many private and public schools had never explored or considered before, because of the lack of professional staff that could lead a program like this.
Despite the fact that there is some basic training involved, you do not have to be a trained dancer in order to bring this concept into your classroom. The one element you must have is your “IMAGINATION”. Thank you Rachael Carnes.

To learn about creative movement go to Creative Dance Center
To learn about Rachael Carnes and Sparkplug dance and obtain great lesson plans and resources go to: Sparkplug Dance

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