By: Jillian Wilschke—
Muncie, IN — One week it might be salsa, the next it could be jazz, but youngsters at local elementary schools are learning about the art of dancing, thanks to the efforts of students like Ball State University’s Ella Donovan.
“My favorite part about the project are moments during class when a child genuinely is excited about what we are learning,” said Donovan, a dance major from Crested Butte, Colorado. “That is when the little ones begin smiling uncontrollably during a free dance activity.”
The Ball State Department of Theatre and Dance’s immersive learning project “DANCE! Muncie After-School” is a free program led by Ball State students for MCS students grades first through fifth to gain exposure to the art of dance.
Each Ball State student spends an hour on Thursdays at a Muncie Community School elementary school teaching youth dance principles, genres and how to communicate through body movement.
“Muncie youth hold the power of growth, development, and sustainability for our future,” Swihart said. “I’m passionate about inspiring and challenging these children to develop their creative and inquisitive minds through dance,”
Donovan believes she has grown in terms of her ability to teach youth about dance.
“This project requires a lot of self-directed study and I have continually taken initiative to deepen my exploration and research in order to create the best experience possible for the students I am teaching. The biggest lessons I have learned so far are patience and the ability to adapt quickly. Every day with the students is different and I need to be able to alter my lesson plan on the spot to maintain attention and focus.”
With financial support from the Provost’s Immersive Learning Grant and the program being named a Schafer Fellow from the Hammer D. and Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation, elementary students also received program t-shirts and ballet slippers to wear during class to supplement their dance education.
While the new dancers are picking up the steps, their Ball State instructors are learning the nuances of teaching. During the first seven weeks of the semester, they researched dance education standards and best practices for the classroom, constructed a curriculum handbook to guide their teaching and house their research and heard from guest lecturers.
Swihart saw the program as an opportunity for her and her students to become more active citizens within Muncie and its future. A majority of the instructors are majors within the Department of Theatre and Dance, but also include public relations and health education and promotion majors.
“The world sometimes overlooks the creative arts, but I think that children need the experience of something creative like dance. Exploring yourself in the context of dance can teach you so many different things,” said Erin Simons, a freshman health education major from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I believe that all children, regardless of their income level should be able to have this experience.”