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Woodland uses dance as fun, but serious, way to teach science

Tom Evert dances to the delight of students at Woodland Elementary School.

   A self-described “dance man” will help to teach science at Woodland Elementary School this month.

   Tom Evert, an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer, is a teaching artist in residence through Mansfield City Schools’ participation in the Partners in Education program of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

   “We will use dance to teach science, specifically weather,” Evert said in a meeting with Woodland teachers. “We will use the elements of dance – body, energy, space and time – to connect movement to the energy of the sun, water condensation and evaporation and other elements of science and weather.”

   Evert will be at Woodland on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through January with a concluding public program planned for early February.

   Principal Kim Johnson said dance is one element of arts integration in education – others are music, theater and the visual arts – that helps children learn in different ways.

   “Our goal is to make sure kids are learning through different mediums,” Johnson said. “Dance offers a fun way to learn science. Young students want to move around. Dance will represent what things mean in weather science and complement our core curriculum.”

   Evert, an Ohio University graduate and founder of the Cleveland-based Tom Evert Dance Company, met Woodland students who sat cross-legged on the gym floor Friday.

   “I’m Mr. Tom. I’m a dance man,” he said. “We’re going to be dancing together about the weather. I want to show you some of the ideas we will be working with.”

   “Ooooohs” and “aaaaahs” echoed through the gym and students burst into applause as Evert leaped and twirled to recorded music.

   “We will use movements like these to express science,” he said.

   Mansfield City Schools is linked with Renaissance Performing Arts and the Mansfield Art Center as Kennedy Center Partners in Education. Mansfield is the smallest of only 100 cities across the nation involved in the Kennedy Center program.

   Evert, who has been involved in arts education programs in schools for 31 years, is sponsored through the Kennedy Center’s Ohio-based partnership.

   Chelsie Thompson, director of operations at the Renaissance Theatre, has cited research which shows that the arts – dance, music, puppetry, storytelling and other mediums – engage students who are not otherwise being reached to help open doors to math, science, language arts and history.

   “Our Kennedy Center partnership revolves around helping teachers to implement the arts as part of the daily curriculum,” Taylor has said. “For some students, auditory input is most valuable, while others rely upon a visual style. Still others learn through kinesthetic means, or a combination of the three.

   “Helping to meet these diverse learning needs is the goal of arts integration in the classroom.”

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