Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Dancing through the Decades in Middle School

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Dancing through the Decades in Middle School

Article excerpt

Seventh and eighth grade students engaged in 13-week interdisciplinary initiative of physical dancing, a discussion, and inquiry into the social climate of each decade and how that climate affected popular culture and the way people moved.

The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Position Statement on Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments (2003) describes elements of quality curriculum for middle school students that take into consideration the variable characteristics of young adolescent learners, who are actively engaged in maturation, social development, and lifelong engagement in literacy and community, as well as learning. AMLE endorses a middle school curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory. Such a curriculum allows students to develop understanding and skills applicable to the real world.

Schools with a strong interdisciplinary art focus strive to create an engaging learning environment of intellectual challenge, creative and critical thinking, inquiry and expression, reflection and sense of community (April, 2010; http://www.capeweb.org/whatwe-do; Rabkin & Redmond, 2006). Since developing the national arts standards, the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations has published several documents outlining specific strategies for effective implementation of the arts standards. Authentic Connections: Interdisciplinary Work in the Arts, (2002) defines interdisciplinary education as one that enables students to identify and apply authentic connections between two or more disciplines and/or to understand essential concepts that transcend individual disciplines. The value of interdisciplinary work in the arts "promotes learning by providing students with opportunities to solve problems and make meaningful connections within the arts across disciplines," and it is recommended that "arts specialists seek a balance between disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning emphases in their classrooms and work with other teachers in schools" (p. 3). Sometimes referred to in the literature as arts integration, it is basically an instructional strategy that brings the arts into the core of the school day, making arts connections to various aspects of the academic curriculum (Rabkin 8c Redmond, 2006). The Kennedy Center's definition for arts integration states: "Art integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process [that] connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both" (http://www.kennedy-center. org/education/ceta/arts_integration_definition.pdf).

Dance is not considered intrinsic to our American being as it might be in more traditional cultures and societies. In fact, of all the art forms, dance is the one least likely to be found in a school curriculum. Although in the past most physical education classes covered basics of traditional dancing, we find that less and less the case today (Graves 8c Townsend, 2000). Many American youth, due to lack of experience and training, may be reticent to move and dance. Middle school students, being at a developmental stage in which they are increasingly susceptible to peer pressure, may exhibit self-conscious behavior and may be less likely to take social risks (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2011). The Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE, 2012) maintains that the integration of art instruction with academic instruction enriches and deepens both the art learning and the academic learning; the arts experience becomes richer through exploring complex, non-arts subjects, and art produced within an integrated curriculum is more compelling because of the constant exchange of questions and ideas from the academic to the artistic work. Quality arts interdisciplinary teaching is often considered most effective when it is conceived as part of what happens within a whole-school culture and is developed through co-planning between partnering educators, whether they be any combination or configuration of arts teachers, classroom teachers, and/or guest artists (April, 2010). …

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