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Arts groups teach Gainesville educators
Workshop aimed to infuse theater, dance into classroom
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A local ballet company showed teachers this week how dance moves can be blended into their daily lesson plans.

"We made movements to the alphabet, so for ‘J' we'd jump or ‘T' was twirl," said Tanya Glosson, president of the Gainesville Ballet Company board. "You can use the body to reinforce what children learn."

Over two days, about 25 Gainesville elementary school teachers learned ways to infuse art into core curriculum subjects such as language arts, science and social studies.

Gainesville Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the district is using federal funding for professional development to reach out to the arts community. The system set up the workshop with the ballet and staff from WonderQuest, a local children's theater.

"We looked at what they had to offer and how we could utilize their resources, performances, performers and educators to teach Georgia Performance Standards through the arts," she said.

Dyer said she believes students have various methods of learning and that studying through art might help them retain more information.

"Teaching the standards in isolation without connecting to an experience doesn't make learning come alive and stick," she said. "This makes learning more exciting and relevant for our students."

The theater company gave teachers ideas such as using improvisation to act out stories or integrating set design in their math lessons. Theater marketing manager Beth Kendall said kindergartners might learn to incorporate three trees in a set, for example, while fourth-graders could measure sheets of plywood.

In a separate workshop, ballet staff explained how movement is a universal language. They showed teachers ways to create dances to express poetry, and for science they used movement to emulate the life cycle of a butterfly or show how magnets repel.

"Some can't learn from just reading, listening or writing," Glosson said. "Sometimes doing helps them learn better."

Funds for the workshop came from Title II money, a formula grant used specifically for professional learning development. Christine Brosky, director of revenue development for Gainesville City Schools, said the goal for the funds this year was to find an innovative way to take core content and bring it to life.

Rather than hire a consultant from across the country, the district targeted experts in own their backyard, Brosky said.

Dyer explained it was a win-win for the district and local arts organizations. The district is lending financial support and exposing students to local arts groups.

Kendall said she hopes the arts-infused learning will awaken children's interest in theater.

"We hope we're developing future patrons and that we see them in the future," she said.

The workshop, held Tuesday and Wednesday, was the first of its kind in Gainesville and officials plan to continue and expand the program next year to include middle and high school teachers.

"The arts are sometimes viewed as add-ons, but what we say as a school system is arts are the core, just as much as math and science," Dyer said.


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