Aiken Elementary students work up a STEAM through dance, movement

Aiken Elementary students work up a STEAM through dance, movement

From The Aiken Standard

Article and photo by Larry Wood

Math plus movement equaled a fun way for Aiken Elementary students to learn about fractions.

Working with Gail Glover Faust for two weeks, the students used dance and movement to explore math and science concepts. Fifth-graders learned about force and motion, and third- and fourth-graders focused on fractions, incorporating the arts with science, technology, engineering and math, or STEAM.

“For the fifth-graders, I used the elements of dance – walk, run, hop, skip, jump – to teach force and motion,” said Faust, who is an Artist in Residence with the S.C. Arts Commission in Columbia. “With the fourth-graders, we compared fractions, and with the third graders, I introduced them to fractions: how to add them, how to compare them, how to subtract them.”

To teach students the difference between numerators and denominators, Faust created a special fraction dance.

“When I say numerator, you go high,” Faust said, and the students jumped as high as they could.

“When I say denominator, you go low,” Faust said, and the students knelt down close to the floor.

“And in the middle, the dividing line, the dividing line,” Faust sang, and the students swayed side to side with their arms stretched out to make the line between numerator and denominator.

“They loved that one,” Faust said. “They had fun. They’re engaged. They’re remembering. Through dance and movement, it’s being imprinted upon them what a numerator is and what a denominator is.”

Faust also had the third- and fourth-graders form human fraction strips, with half the students sitting down and the other half standing, to learn how different fractions – one-half or three-sixths, for example – can look the same.

“The students become the tools for learning,” Faust said. “When our bodies become the tools, then it’s so much easier to translate the math and the science. You can actually act it out and make it come to life.”

Annie Laurie Matson, Aiken Elementary’s music teacher, said the dance project allowed students to have fun and learn about science and math while meeting state requirements for dance in elementary schools.

“We did a study that showed that dance was not being addressed in our school, and there are standards in South Carolina for dance education,” said Matson who applied for an Innovative Arts Works Grant from the S.C. Department of Education to bring Faust to Aiken Elementary. “Kids need to move, and it’s also another way for kids to think creatively and outside the box.”

Matson, a member of the Standards Writing Committee for South Carolina, said the committee’s members are working to address how students learn in all areas of the arts and how they can be incorporated into a STEAM education.

“The skills for the 21st century will require kids to work together collaboratively and to use lots of different skills creatively. Most of theses kids will have jobs that don’t even exist right now and we can’t even imagine,” Matson said. “While our students might not be dancers and we’re not trying to make everybody a dancer or a musician or an artist, we want them to have those skills, appreciate them and have them in their lives.”