For schools, especially elementary schools, to achieve their goals of educating our children and to lay the foundation for the rigors they will face at higher-grade schools and eventually, life, they need to go beyond writing, reading and arithmetic in order to actively engage the kids and make them willing and eager participants. Working with staff, the Hardy PTA funds several programs that not only prepare kids for their current, daily routines but incorporate their curriculum into fun activities that tie their creativity into what could be mundane, rote tasks. Some examples of the programs are:
Tune Your Engine is a series of breathing and movement exercises designed for elementary school age children. The exercises are designed to help children focus their mind and ramp up energy to get ready for the day and are based on Pilates, yoga, guided breathing concepts, isometric muscle movement and imaginary play. They are designed to warm up the areas of the body needed to do school work; hands, fingers, arms, upper back and neck. An emphasis is placed on waking up the student’s mind and body and connecting them for workday readiness.
Animal Traits and How They Move is a 3-4 week creative movement workshop for first graders that uses visual aids, pictures and graphics to show different animals as they swim, crawl, jump, run and fly. Students watch short videos of animals moving, then stand and learn a clap and stomp rhythm to get bodies moving, then improvise movements based on their observations of the coyote howling, the eagle soaring, elephants bathing and other animal movements they watched.
Intro to Folk Dance gives second graders an opportunity to learn a traditional American folk dance. They learn a dance from the Appalachian/Ozark Mountain region that uses simple dance steps to create patterns in both a circle and snake formation. This circle dance gives them an understanding of rhythm and movement in a fun and athletic way. They jump, run, clap, turn and count — all engaging the parts of their brain that they use when learning math. The classes learn geography of the region and history about the people from Appalachia and the Ozarks, determined by the teachers. The Intro to Folk Dance unit can be used for physical education credit, social studies, STEAM learning and geography.
Storytelling Through Movement is a 4-5 week program for third graders that explores individual and group movement as a form of emotional expression and storytelling. Many cultures use movement both gestural and physical to share their history. This unit focuses on cultural dance from Hawaii (hula dance) and haka warrior chants from New Zealand. The students learn the language of movement from this region. The unit culminates in a shared performance and celebration featuring foods from the area.
International Folk Dance for fourth graders spends one week on the Middle Eastern dance “Hora,” two weeks on South African dance “Pata Pata,” two weeks on Latin American dance “Cha Cha,” and three weeks on American square dance. Children first learn basic square dance movements and calls. They are taught a line dance with partners and connect it to the Walk Through California program that occurs around the same time. During the last week of instruction, students practice all dances and the unit culminates in several showings at open house. Performances take place in the auditorium.
3rd & 4th Grade Dance-Off is the culmination dance party for the fall program. Each class learns the same rhythms and patterns from folk dance phrases taught during Tune Your Engine. Students compete in their own grade level. The winners of that contest compete for a prize. Judges for the competition are the school’s teachers and principal. Families and classes can be invited to watch. The dance-off happens in the fall, November, and is performed on the kindergarten playground.
The PTA works hard at fundraising for these and many other programs not funded by the school district, like field trips, which we took for granted as kids. With the community’s help, our hope is to expand the offerings for the kids and enrich their learning experience even more.
—Tina Gerstler is a Hardy Elementary PTA board member.