Dancing to learn physics?


Dance to Learn students at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus. Photo: Erin Gomach.

Can a tango teach the rules of action vs reaction? How about swinging your partner to experience the powers of centrifugal force?

Today 25 teachers from around the state are at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts learning how to integrate dance into the curriculum at their schools.

And by dance, we’re not talking about 15 minutes of ballet inbetween math and English.

Instead these teachers, with help from staff at the Perpich Center for the Arts, will learn to use dance as a tool for understanding things like photosynthesis. The “Dance to Learn” program helps teachers to integrate the principles of dance with other areas of study, connecting ideas of space, time, shape and line with choreography.

Now in its third year, this year’s program involves select schools in Richfield, Saint Paul and Minneapolis. A total of 16 classrooms are participating and include students in 3rd – 8th grades. Three of these classrooms are specifically focused on working with students learning English as a second language.

As the year proceeds, these teachers will receive seven to nine days of hands-on coaching at their schools. Ultimately over 1600 students will participate in multiple dance lessons.

  • partly_cloudy

    I certainly hope this connection between dance and physics didn’t just occur to folks. Dance and other arts can also be used to help teach many other concepts, as the program described in this story does, and to motivate students. Research on art integration in education always gets positive results for student learning and even improved test scores, which is why it’s such a shame that arts funding in schools is always the first to get cut.

    Further, dance and the physics of the body are intimately related, even for ballet. Certain types of modern dance are based mainly on physics concepts and efficient movement: suspension, catch/release, balance.

  • Marianne Combs

    partly_cloudy – Thanks for the very good points. My understanding is that the program integrates dance into the teaching of all sorts of topics, not just science. Cheers!