Barefoot and Dancing – a learning activity

dance educatorThis week at Dance Teaching Ideas we are delighted to have Mia Hollingworth as a Guest Writer.  Mia is an Australian educator, education content writer and performance artist based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Her work in Primary schools has been influenced by her work as a dance artist, and Mia takes a multiarts approach to her work with children.

Barefoot and Dancing

by Mia J Hollingworth

The holistic health benefits of connecting with nature is not a new concept but dancing barefoot on mother earth with your children or students just might be.

I have been reminded recently about the importance of grounding or earthing which occurs when there is a transfer of energy from the ground to the body. There is emerging scientific research that supports this concept.  The documentary – The Earthing is worth a watch to get you excited or at the very least curious about this not so new concept.

The benefits of taking off your shoes and dancing

In basic terms and for the sake of this piece of writing I will briefly explain what is meant by grounding / earthing here.

The earth holds electrons which we receive as we come into direct contact with the earth. This transfer can cause physiological changes and can strongly influence things like; quality of sleep, chronic illness, reduced pain, a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the nervous system and pardon the pun, makes us feel more grounded.

dancing at primary school

Although I am lucky enough to live on a twelve-acre organic farm on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, I have to concede I don’t always, not even often get those bony white feet out of my shoes. Why when I live in the perfect conditions for a stroll across mother earth, well its two-fold. 1: I love fashion and that includes buying / wearing funky shoes and 2: Like most people I am conditioned to put shoes on my feet when leaving the house and to keep them on until the end of day when I return home.

How do you integrate creative movement into your dance lessons?

As a school teacher, I often spend long periods of time either sitting at a desk in front of my computer or in a highly energetically charged environment – the classroom. To be honest these modes of being in my body are draining and exhausting on my nervous system.

If these environments are impacting me in this way, I know it must be having an overstimulating effect on the little people in these environments too.

I have tried many known strategies to help students and myself in the process to find ways to settle the nervous tension and highly charged energy that hasn’t had room or time to diffuse. Strategies such as; a quick brain break activity which might involve students getting up out of their chairs for 5 minutes and a fruit snack but these don’t seem to have the desired effect. The desired affect being a more embodied state of being.

Children who are happy to be in their own skin, children whose senses have come alive to the here and now and as a consequence are more able to find focus with what is being presented in the learning environment.

Dance Teaching Idea

This is an approximately 40-minute session with the possibility of an extension writing / drawing task.

What you will need or won’t need for this movement activity.

Your bodies – This activity is for all bodies.


A patch of earth – This could be your local park, beach, your backyard if you’re lucky enough to have one or if you are a high-rise dweller or are currently in a lock down situation you might have to get creative and arrange some soil from a potted garden or local nursery.


NO SHOES or SOCKS! In fact, the less clothes you wear the better as this activity can extend beyond just a walk or dance on your feet.


Be as creative as you are.

creative movement

Movement Activity 1 – 3 min

Take off socks and shoes and be sure to put socks inside shoes.

Movement Activity 2 – 5 min

Start by standing – curling, wiggling the toes. Tuning into the sensations coming up through the feet. Ask your children/students to describe these as, different surfaces create different sensations.

Start walking – if there is ample space maybe you can involve a run. You could use the traffic light symbols to control the speed and flow.

*For older children include Backwards walking / running.

Movement Activity 3 – 5 min

On hands and feet – ask students to name the body parts that are in contact with the earth. Tuning into the sensations on these new body parts ask how it feels different i.e.; are these parts more or less sensitive to the sensations of the ground.

Start crawling – this could develop into knees off and a hand and feet running race (this really tires them out!)

Movement Activity 4 – 5 min

Lying on the ground (prone or supine) – ask students to name the body parts that are now in contact with the earth. Tuning into the sensations of these new body parts, ask how it feels different? For example, are these body parts more or less sensitive to the sensations of the ground?

Start rolling. Make sure arms are tucked up underneath the body and head is elevated (this is an all-time favourite).

Movement Activity 5 – 10 min

Now you have explored various levels, speeds, locomotor movement and contact surfaces of body to earth, it’s time to dance.  Use improvisation  and the children’s creative imagination.

If children are getting ‘stuck in the mud’, the teacher/parent can encourage using different levels, ‘traffic light’ speed and body parts. You could also add music to initiate a wider range of movement experience.

Activity 6 – 3 min

Put socks and shoes on.

Reflection Activity 7 – 5 min

Wind Down with a Story

Tell the story of that lesson. “Today, we met outside and (fill in the blank). Then, we felt the grass and dirt and (fill in blank). After that, we danced using our whole bodies and enjoyed being free together.

Next, we focused our minds on moving at different speeds and on different levels and felt the contact of different parts of our bodies on the earth). Now, it is time to share something about the lesson we learnt, liked or found challenging.

creative movement

Can you see yourself running this lesson? It could also be condensed to a 10-minute activity as a transition between lessons.

I would love to hear feedback on how it ran. Did you noticed any observable changes in your children/students’ general behaviour?  This could include improved ability to listen, focus their energy, cooperate and connect.


Many thanks to Mia Hollingworth for her insights into dance in the ‘great outdoors’.  Here are some  more dance ideas if your interested in dancing outdoors or dance education for sustainability.


DTI Guest Writer

Mia Hollingworth is an Australian educator, education content writer and performance artist based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

A dance graduate of the Victorian College of Arts 1994, her career as a contemporary dancer for live and film work has seen her collaborate and tour with some of Melbourne’s leading experiential contemporary companies and choreographers from 1995-2007.

During a lengthy hiatus from practice and performance, Mia became a mother and returned to studies, completing a Bachelor of Education in 2017 and is about to embark on the journey of death doula training.

Since moving to the Sunshine Coast, she has returned to her first love – dance. Hollingworth has since been a grant recipient to create in Place2Play, 2020 – a Sunshine Coast Arts initiative, will perform as part of Horizon festival, 2021 Homegrown with LJ Projects and is super grateful to be the recipient of Creative Spaces Artist in Residence this August. Mia is committed to dance advocacy through contributing to conversations, writing and education.



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