I spent last week with an amazing teaching artist, dancer and choreographer Randy Barron. Randy is in town working with ASU Gammage, Peoria Unified School District and Mesa Public Schools through the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education Program. Since 1995, ASU Gammage has been a part of the Partners in Education Program. This program nurtures partnerships between arts centers and school districts across the country, providing professional development experiences promoting arts integration for teachers with highly trained teaching artists.
During the week Randy Barron has worked with teachers from Peoria and Mesa sharing his strategies for integrating movement with poetry to create powerful learning experiences for students. Randy taught two three hour professional development workshops providing hands on experience for the teachers, and additionally modeled his teaching strategies in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classroom at Foothills Elementary School in the Peoria Unified School District. The Peoria Unified School District is also home to Desert Harbor Elementary, a pioneering arts integration school that began school wide arts integration in partnership with ASU Gammage creating the Arts Leading Learning Model (ALLM).
Randy’s work in the classroom was truly exhiliarating. Randy quickly gets the students off their feet leading creative movement exercises having students express verbs, adjectives and nouns through movement. The students are stretching their minds and their bodies and soon begin to choreograph short phrases, then move to whole poems. Energy fills the air as the students break into small groups reading a poem then quickly begin to work on the group choreography; planning, problem solving, cooperating and creating. The words of the poem fly off the paper and emerge in their dances as the flowing movement of water, the fiery sun, or soaring eagles.
It is easy to see the power of arts integration in the excitement and energy of the students, but also in the reaction of teachers who see the potential for this captivating work and the way that it reaches their students. Teachers observed that movement opens their students’ minds to greater possibilities with writing and visualization, and expressed their excitement in watching students gain confidence, engage in higher level thinking and enjoy active, engaged and meaningful learning experiences. Students and teachers are already thinking of ways that they will continue to use movement in their classrooms from poetry to science to social studies! I can’t wait to see where they will go next!
Cultural Participation Manager