DEL Week 2: Early Childhood Wonderdance

By Rachael Oczkus, EDN! Volunteer

Week Two of DEL consisted of a workshop on early childhood dance and creative movement led by Deborah Damast and Jennifer Katz, who posses lightness and creative spirits producing an atmosphere of play. These concepts are focused around children ages 3 to 8, but many of the techniques can be expanded to include all age groups.

1. Structure.  The Wonderdance class begins with entering the room and then leads into a greeting experience. The presentation of the daily theme follows a group warm-up activity. Creating a greeting and rallying students before class can set the tone for the session in environments where specific spots for dance are lacking.

2. Exploration.  Typically, an exploration in a Wonderdance classroom guides kids through a sort of movement experience or improvisation which allows them to dig deep into one area of study. After exploring and expanding on the theme, a certain development or composition can be inserted into the lesson.

3. Sharing and Reflection.  These portions of the class can also help children prepare for an upcoming performance or give them a chance to make sense of the purpose of their experiences. As a teacher, the sharing and reflection time give you an opportunity to asses your lesson and highlight the major takeaways for your students. Remember that students will not always learn what you want them to learn but instead they will learn what they need to learn.

Our Challenge to You

In learning about the Wonderdance formatting of a class and in experimenting with my own themes and ideas within the form, Deborah and Jen instilled in me a sense of play. The workshop taught me that dance in a non-traditional setting is often not about formal technique or practice but developing a safe space for play and creativity. If you wish to incorporate play through movement in your students’ lives you must know how to advocate for your creative curriculum.

I challenge all of you as teachers to compose a list of reasons why dance and play can be important for your students. You can add to your list and be thinking about your list in times when you are challenged to advocate for your classroom practices. I’ve included my personal list below.

  • Dance class might be the only place where students are given the chance to play. Play is important for kids because children learn from play.
  • Creative play develops proprioceptive awareness. Proprioception is the internal sense that tells you where parts of your body are without having to look at them.
  • Creative play in groups creates spatial awareness. Spatial awareness expands to children’s social lives promoting good citizenship through collaboration, empathy, and openness.
  • Play in a dance class can promote artistic expression that gives children a place for their energy.
  • Play allows children to personally embody a concept through a physical experience.
  • Dance allows for mind/ body integration.
  • Dance teaches kids about the importance of physical fitness and encourages healthy habits.
  • Dance and creativity promote peace and understanding of other people (cultural awareness).
  • Dance can build confidence! In a creative play environment, a child’s ideas are always heard and embraced.
  • Dance develops language acquisition, overcoming any language barriers present in your classroom.