Zephyr Dance

Students Use Interpretive Dance to Express their Writing

Students in Jenna Stern’s third grade class wrote stories about saving and spending as part of a writing prompt. Then, as part of an artistic endeavor to visualize their writing, the Hawthorn Elementary School North students created artistic movements to those stories.

Third grader Steven McKabney wrote, “Sometimes you really want to get something but it costs a lot of money. You should save your money because in the future you’ll go to college and if you don’t get a scholarship what happens then?”

The writing was part of a Zephyr dance movement project in which students acted out what they wrote through interpretative dance. For the school, where 43 percent of the students speak a language other than English in their home, educators use dance to help cross academic language barriers.

Hawthorn School District 73 schools have integrated artful learning into their curriculum. Artful Learning, a Leonard Bernstein model, links the arts and the artistic process to the daily classroom learning experience. Conductor, composer Bernstein believed that the process of experiencing the arts could provide a way to instill a lifelong love of learning in children. Educators believe this model demonstrates a pattern of increased growth in state achievement because it uses a variety of students’ senses such as visual, auditory, sensory, and so on to retain information.

The Chicago based Zephyr residency project encourages the students in the Grades kindergarten through five building to write short stories and then creatively act them out using their arms, feet and facial expressions.

“Artful learning through music, dance, or visual art is a highly effective way to engage students whose first language is not English as it crosses both language and cultural barriers.   We have witnessed at Hawthorn that students who are not yet able to articulate orally in English readily express themselves in a deep and meaningful way through their artful representations,” said Betsy Sostak, district coordinator of dual language and bilingual services.

Added Lisa Cerauli, district assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, “Zephyr shows how the arts, specifically dance, can create a more solid connection to curriculum for students.”