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Arts in Education

 

This year marks the fourth year of Arts in Education for New Lebanon’s seventh and eighth grade classes. The goal of this program is to help students and teachers connect the arts into their academics and ultimately, to all learning.

Each year the English Department is included in the Arts in Education endeavor while other departments become involved according to ease of connection made to the art form being explored. With this year's art form being modern dance, the Physical Education and Music Departments were actively involved in this year’s program.

Modern dancer, Meg Agnew, has been the coordinator for the New Lebanon Arts in Education Program for the past four years.  This year she was also the Dance Teaching Artist in Residence.

Along with teachers, Holly May, Kelly O'Brien, Lenny Brown, Tim Christiansen, Valene Synakowski, Scott Thompson, Marybeth Liles and Donna Brooks, Agnew narrowed down the goals of the unit to focus on choices students might make in expressing difficult issues or feelings in a healthy manner. The inspiration for the goals came from a performance by the Albany based Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company for the New Lebanon students.

Agnew worked with the students in Kelly O’Brien’s English class once a week for two months and guided them through the process of creating movement phrases based on memoir writing they had completed last fall.  During these visits she worked with students to discover the basic elements of the modern dance art form and assisted them in choreographing short modern dance pieces.

Throughout the unit, students wrote and blogged about their experience of choreography and taking in the dance performance itself. Ms. O'Brien's classes also explored an overview of the history of the American Modern Dance movement.

Many of the short modern dance pieces were performed by the students at Community Night, an annual event which shares the Arts in Education process with the public. Physical Education teacher, Leonard Brown, with the assistance of Music Teacher, Valene Synakowski, assisted students in choreographing a short silhouette dance to "Jar of Hearts" which was filmed and also shown at Community Night.

Agnew said, “It was inspiring to witness the broad spectrum of student responses to this process; some jumped right in, some grappled with power struggles within groups, some met their own restrictions and conquered them, and every single student met with a problem they figured out how to solve.” 

Arts in Education helped to show students many options of healthy self-expression and healthy risk taking behaviors such as performing a dance in front of 200 people that has been rehearsed only a handful of times. Through the use of writing, movement, blogging, research and inquiry-based teaching, teachers deepened students' learning using truly interdisciplinary techniques.