In This Issue:

Happy New Year to the Arts in Education community! We are excited for what 2017 has in store. One way to start your year is to check out our latest publication: an electronic brochure showcasing the Arts in Education program. We think this brochure will be a great resource for the whole community; it offers a description of our program and includes vignettes highlighting some current and former grantees.

In this newsletter issue, we continue with the series on specific arts disciplines, this time with a focus on dance in the classroom. In the pieces that follow, we explore the power of movement to engage students and teachers alike, and explore best practices for integrating dance education in schools. Our feature article is by Shannon Dooling, special projects coordinator of the National Dance Education Organization. This article provides an array of evidence of how dance can impact student outcomes, teacher satisfaction, and even school culture. Our two spotlights bring the evidence from the feature article to life: In the AEMDD spotlight, we feature ArtsConnection’s DELLTA project, which engages English language learners through dance, and incorporates technology to help students document their creative process. Our PDAE spotlight is Project Elevate, a grantee that focuses its professional development on how to incorporate dance and drama into elementary reading, math, and science lessons. Be sure to check out the sidebar interview with Susan McGreevy-Nichols, executive director of the National Dance Education Organization. McGreevy-Nichols details how the new dance standards were developed and what they look like in action. Lastly, you can find some noteworthy articles about arts education in all disciplines in our Arts in the News section, as well as information on conferences and professional development opportunities in the Upcoming Events section.

The Artistic Process of Dance 

By Shannon Dooling
Dance offers opportunities for embodied learning.
Dance, as an artistic and physical practice, seems to stand in contrast to some recent educational trends, such as a focus on standardized testing, digital technology, and core content. A closer look, however, reveals dance can and should play an important role in the well-rounded K-12 curriculum, both as a core subject and as an integrative tool to support learning in other subject areas. In this article, we highlight recent research showing how dance can benefit students in a number of ways, from improving student achievement through embodied learning, helping vulnerable student populations who are left behind by traditional teaching methods, and improving school culture through community building.

In 2013, the National Dance Education Organization set out to identify and analyze the latest research on dance education. As a result of these efforts, NEDO released Evidence: A Report on the Impact of Dance in the K-12 Setting, a report that summarizes the growing body of research showing that dance can have a positive impact on student achievement, teacher satisfaction, and school culture.
Dance is a crucial tool in the educational process, providing a deep and lasting learning experience for students.
To understand why researchers are discovering the benefits of dance in K-12 education, it helps to understand some recent advances in neuroscience. A number of studies reviewed in the Evidence report have shown that dance prepares the brain for learning in unique ways. For example, physical act of dance increases blood flow and oxygen, which boosts cognitive performance. Moreover, neuroscientists have found that

“Movement activities are also effective because they involve more sensory input, hold the students' attention for longer periods of time, help them make connections between new and past learnings and improve long-term recall.” (Sousa, 2006).         

In short, the physical practice of dance has been shown to prime students for learning. Of course, dance is more than just a physical practice: it is an artistic process, and research shows that teaching dance in schools can promote subtler and more complex forms of thinking, and help students learn how to express sentiments and convey meaning creatively (Sousa, 2006). 

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In Focus: New National Standards for Dance Education

The National Standards for Arts Education have shaped the way schools teach the arts for over 20 years. To ensure that arts education continues to reflect cutting-edge research and best practices, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) recently updated the standards for five arts disciplines. We talked about the new dance standards with Susan McGreevy-Nichols, executive director of the National Dance Education Organization.

Q: How are the new dance standards different than the National Standards in Arts Education released in 1994, and what was behind these changes?

A: The 1994 Dance Standards were designed to define what students should “know and be able to do,” by providing a thorough grounding in a basic body of knowledge and skills organized around 7 content standards, it established achievement expectations for students at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade.

The major difference between the 2014 National Core Arts Standards in Dance and the 1994 Dance Standards is the basic structure. Instead of 7 content standards, the new standards are structured around the processes: Creating, Performing, Responding, and Connecting.  There is also a grade-by-grade progression of the dance specific performance standards.

Before beginning to write the standards, NCCAS investigated the format of standards across the nation and internationally through a study conducted by the College Board and found that many were organized around the artistic processes. Another deciding factor to structuring the 2014 standards around the processes was the 1997 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Arts Education Assessment Framework that was based on the processes and therefore enabling a more authentic assessment of the 1994 standards.

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Finding Joy in Dance

Students expressing themselves through movement.
Between the awkward growth spurts and complex social dynamics, middle school can be a challenging time for any student. Now imagine navigating the rocky terrain of adolescence, plus learning the core curriculum, in a non-native language. Across the country, middle-school English language learners (ELLs) are facing this challenge every day. But for students in 15 schools in New York City, they have an ally in ArtsConnection’s Developing English Language Literacy through the Arts (DELLTA) program. DELLTA, which received an AEMDD grant in 2014, offers ELLs the opportunity to express themselves through dance.
Dance offers an opportunity for students to express their thoughts with their bodies." 
—Carol Morgan, ArtsConnection deputy director for education and DELLTA project director
“ELL students often have a hard time communicating verbally, but dance offers an opportunity for students to express their thoughts with their bodies,” explained Carol Morgan, ArtsConnection’s deputy director for education and DELLTA project director. Indeed, a growing body of research shows that dance can serve as a bridge to language development by drawing a connection between physical movement and cognition. The DELLTA program builds on this connection through an inquiry-based model, which encourages students to construct and critique artistic work. “Our approach is to inspire students to think like artists,” said Morgan. “We are less interested in students getting the ’right’ answer than in helping them work through the creative process.”

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Elevating Learning Through Dance

Dance improves students’ confidence and engagement.
Students in Florida are no strangers to turtles; it’s one of the perks of living in one of America’s sub-tropical climates. So when Jessica Oatman, the arts integration specialist for Sarasota County schools, was planning to incorporate dance into a 2nd grade science lesson, it was only natural that she feature many students’ favorite reptile: the turtle. In collaboration with the classroom teachers attending her professional development sessions on arts integration, Oatman and her colleagues developed a lesson plan using movement and dance to show how turtles interact and adapt to their habitat throughout their lifecycle. These professional development sessions are supported by Project Elevate, a 2014 PDAE grantee.

Project Elevate came about after years of partnering with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program, which assists communities in developing and implementing a plan for expanded arts education in schools. Using the Kennedy Center’s Arts Integration Framework, Project Elevate harnesses the power of dance to support student learning in reading, math, and science. In its first year, Elevate targeted 2nd and 3rd grade teachers and students. Now in year two, the program has expanded to include 4th grade as well.
Rudolf Laban's 8 Effort Actions: wring, press, flick, dab, glide, float, punch, slashTo orient participating teachers on how to integrate dance into regular instruction, Oatman used modern dance pioneer Rudolf Laban’s model of human movement and “efforts” to show teachers how dance can be a language in itself. (Laban’s eight effort actions are simple and familiar verbs that are used to extend actors’ and dancers’ movement vocabulary and ability to play characters physically.) Project Elevate utilizes the model of gradual release; classroom teachers observe Oatman in the classroom, and then work alongside her to develop their own connections with academic content and movement. Check out a short video showcasing the program here.
Teachers have been inspired to try out art forms they hadn’t dabbled in before, reinvigorating their practice and instructional methods.
Beyond the support teachers receive from the arts integration specialist, Project Elevate teachers engage in an arts-focused online professional learning community, posting and discussing lesson plans, and reflecting on previous lessons. Program staff report that after just one year of scaffolding and support, teachers have been inspired to try out art forms they hadn’t dabbled in before, reinvigorating their practice and instructional methods.

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  • A recent article in EdWeek explores some successful models for investing in students’ creative capital. Utilizing the power of public-private partnerships, the cities of Seattle, Chicago, Dallas and Boston have all invested energy into expanding arts education for all young people. Read more about the approaches these cities took, and how other urban school districts can take similar action.
  • Can a schoolwide routine that includes morning dance parties and sing-alongs help students succeed? Staff and administrators at Weiner Elementary School in Arkansas certainly think so. After focusing on ways to create a sense of happiness among staff and students, Weiner has reported decreases in tardiness, increases in attendance, and a more solidified school community. Read more about recent findings on the importance of school climate, particularly as a way to bridge the achievement gap.
  • Thanks to a generous gift, a new generation of dance education leaders will have a unique opportunity to blossom. Judy Gottfried Arnhold and her husband John have donated $4.36 million to the Teachers College at Columbia University to establish a new doctoral program to train individuals who instruct dance teachers. The Arnholds’ ultimate goal? To place a certified dance teacher in every public school in New York City. Find out more on how this gift will impact the future of dance education.
  • Cobb County School District in Georgia has been awarded a 2017 Innovation Fund Implementation Grant in the amount of $652,492. The grant will support a program for K-3rd grade students that integrates arts into language and literacy instruction. Through a partnership with ArtsNow, the district will also provide professional development for teachers and forge partnerships with local artists.
  • State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) and Public Consulting Group (PCG) have partnered to offer professional development to support teachers and students in arts education. Responding to the need for professional development on implementing the National Core Arts Standards, the partnership will provide visual, media and performing arts content in an online professional learning platform. Read more about the partnership here.
  • Second-grade students at William F. Halloran School No. 11 in Elizabeth, N.J., are participating in a 14-week Creative Movement Residency through Dance to Learn (DTL). In partnership with the local dance company 10 Hairy Legs, students are receiving weekly classes that encourage exploration of elements of dance while developing individual creativity and artistry.  DTL is an interdisciplinary dance curriculum aligned with the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) National Arts Standards in Dance. Read more about Dance to Learn here.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently announced the first projects funded through a new program, NEA Research Labs. The cross-sector projects are focused on drawing connections between the arts and positive outcomes in fields such as healthcare, education, business, and management.