Project Researches Impact Of Dance On Students

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Since mid-February, three Anne Arundel County Public Schools kindergarten classes have been participating in a project that studies the impact of dance during school hours.

Over the summer, dance teacher specialist Nicole Deming and arts integration specialist Lacey Sheppard conceived the project, working with other AACPS offices to make sure it fit into the appropriate curriculum.

“Kids need movement. Young students, especially, need to be able to get up and move,” Sheppard said. “When you integrate that into the everyday learning that takes places, it just seems more natural for them.”

Twice a week, dance integration teacher Paige Petroziello visits the classes to work on the curriculum. The participating elementary schools are Brooklyn Park, Riviera Beach and Lake Shore, which are all arts integration schools. Petroziello has been delivering the science and social studies curriculum through movement.

“I’ve seen a really big growth in confidence,” Petroziello said. “They’re growing together through dance, which is a really big thing to me.”

At each of the three schools, one kindergarten class is participating and one is not. Sheppard and Deming conduct walkthroughs of the classes to observe differences in how the students are engaging with their lessons and their level of motivation.

“We expect to see in the movement-based classes that the students are more consistently engaged because they’re up and moving and participating instead of just sitting and listening,” Sheppard said.

While observing classes, Sheppard has noticed that, while lining up after class, students who are participating in the project are repeating some of the keywords from the lesson. Meanwhile, students in the non-participating classes are talking about other things, like recess.

“I’m curious about the retention component of it,” Sheppard said. “We haven’t assessed that yet because the project is still ongoing, but I’m curious to see how that is going to play out with retention of information.”

The project will end with a showcase on Tuesday, June 4, at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park. All three participating classes will perform a piece they’ve been working on.

“The idea is that each kindergarten class will get to perform for one another,” Sheppard said. “We’re bringing all three schools together so they can support each other on a bigger scale.”

Going forward, Deming and Sheppard hope that they can share their findings with other principals in the county, as well as neighboring counties.

“The purpose of the showcase is not only for the students to be proud of the work that they’ve done, but to share with others so they can see the impact it’s having,” Deming said. “We’re excited and hopeful that it will move forward.”

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