EPSD 124 fifth graders had the opportunity to celebrate commonalities, build self-esteem and gain confidence by participating in a 12-week dancing program that took place in each of the four elementary schools.
The District collaborated with Dancing with Class – an organization that offers engaging youth dance training geared toward the learning styles of children and young adults – to run its dancing program for the first time this year. As part of the program, a Dancing with Class instructor worked with all of the students as they experienced the art and joy of social dance. The fifth graders learned through a curriculum that focuses on Social Emotional Learning, while also teaching the characteristics and cultural origins of each dance.
D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak saw the students’ progress firsthand: "I am really proud of them," Machak said. "We talk about taking risks and being open to new ideas as part of the learning process; these students lived that for the last twelve weeks."
The program works, Machak believes, because the idea of using social dance to teach interpersonal skills "levels the playing field" for the students involved.
"It doesn't matter what your ethnicity is, what your family's socio-economic status is, or where your house is located," he said. "When our students are putting themselves out there to learn the tango for the first time, they are all pretty much in the same boat.
"I think that a child watching her peers experience the same joys and frustrations in learning the dance steps that she is feeling builds empathy and helps her see other kids in her class as more similar to her than different. Gaining that insight is such a valuable part of this experience," he added
The program culminated with a Dance Off at Central Middle School on Nov. 28, during which the students had the opportunity to show off their newfound abilities to dance the Merengue, Waltz, Tango, Swing and Salsa.
On Nov. 21, the students had a chance to show off their dance moves. Click on the files below to videos from each performance.