Dancing the Curriculum
Children learn in many different ways. In 2009, a creative arts project took place which aimed to deliver the whole curriculum to a Year 3 class in a primary school using movement and dance. This DaLI (Dance and Learning Inspired) project, lasting a term, involved replacing the classroom's desks and chairs by a dance floor and cushions. Radical and experimental, it was seen as a pilot for a much larger project with an academic research component, which would assess the effects on learning and examine the issues raised by the children, their parents, the dancers and the teaching staff.
An embedded researcher sat in for two days a week, observing activities, talking to people involved and making use of a notebook, which was always open so that the children could look at it or to write or draw in it.
Many positive benefits were identified. Although teachers had some reservations, they felt that learning was more deeply embedded, though slower, and they noted that some children appeared to become more enthusiastic and better engaged. Some were very surprised at what the children could do and how they could behave. Some parents reported similar changes, saying their children were keener to go to school and, unexpectedly, were talking more to their parents, feeling they now had something to talk about.
Whilst one or two children did not respond very well (those who tended to be good at learning conceptually), the general feeling was that there had been good emotional and social benefits, with an increase in the children's self-esteem and confidence.
Follow-up analysis continues, contributing to an assessment of the transformative potential of the arts. Of particular interest will be sustainability - can the positive effects last after the project is over?
Principal investigator:Dr Sarah Atkinson
Wolfson fellows: Professor Jane Macnaughton
Other Durham University researchers: Dr Karen Scott
Other organizations:Creative Partnerships, Bullion Lane Primary School, County Durham, Dance City
Funder: Creative Partnerships; Wolfson Research Institute
Dates: 2009 - 2010 (with ongoing spin-offs)
Keywords: transformation; well-being, dance and movement, arts in health, primary school curriculum; partnership