How do you integrate STEM in dance education? Turn it into STEAM!

STEM educationAs teachers we become collectors of ideas and experiences over the years. In this article I have included some of my favourite online dance ideas for the Primary classroom and for home schoolers. These dance activities highlight how we can integrate STEM practices with dance, as a part of the Arts, in the Australian Curriculum. Putting STEAM into your classes.

Having children move, create and problem solve are central to dance as a part of The Arts in the Australian Curriculum. The Arts encourage meaningful collaboration and highlight the responsibilities of compromise when working in group situations. Taking a project from the planning stage, to production, and through to product, is common to STEM tasks as well as those in the Arts.

Creative and imaginative thinking is pivotal in STEM education and the Arts provides ways of connecting the various disciplines within STEM. By fostering inventive thinking and growing imaginative design capabilities, students are better equipped to tackle challenges that may be foreign or unfamiliar. They learn how to apply an array of knowledge in different contexts. Working through problems and applying new and old information.

Our current students will pioneer technologies and work practices that are not even imagined today!  Students need to develop strong communication and critical thinking skills to negotiate this changing environment. The Arts fosters curiosity and courage to experiment, empowering risk taking and expansion of ideas through visualization and implementation.

The ‘A’ in STEAM acknowledges the part creativity, imagination, communication and design-thinking play in innovative technologies, maths and science.

Integrating Dance with STEM

Many online dance opportunities integrate STEM for a variety of age groups and teaching and learning situations. Here are just a few.

Dance Party is a 1 hr online and physical dance lesson that enables students to choose their own music and choreograph their own dances. There are simple steps to go through that involve coding, music, dance and interactive online components that can transfer to the physical classroom. It’s colourful and engaging and shows how to structure an online and a choreographic project.

I love this activity as it allows students to work their way through step by step instructions and be individual and creative with their choices. A bit like a choose your own adventure in dance!

If you’re learning at home this a great way to bring STEAM into your learning experience. Choose which age group is appropriate and away you go.

Engineering and Dance shows the similarities between the engineering creative process and the choreographic process. Cool, right? It shows how one teacher turned STEM into STEAM through a Marvellous Machines unit. There is a wonderful table that illustrates the similarities in these processes and provides a scaffold for the students learning about both areas.

The machines covered include the inclined plane, lever, pulley, screw, gear, wheel and axel. They also demonstrate their understanding of force and load. A short video shows the performance outcome from the class to give you an idea about how it may turn out.

If you need more detailed instructions to support this kind of a lesson with Levers and Games have a look in Interdisciplinary Learning through Dance by Lynnette Young, Beth Post and Diane Newman.

Artistic practice develops strong reflective and reflexive abilities as students analyse and evaluate their creative processes and products. However, it should be acknowledged that the Arts cannot just become a vehicle for other learning areas. The Arts need to be valued for its important cultural and artistic contribution to education and our broader society. Dance in particular should be seen as a way for students to make meaning about the human experience and not just as a physical exercise or entertainment.

Try putting some STEAM in your next lesson and see how engaged your students become with STEM.

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