Every month we publish two articles on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.

Although “learning by doing” is regaining its rightful emphasis, and natural kinesthetic learners get more respect these days, most students are still expected to sit down for most of their school time. Even schools that value daily recess often fail to consider the additional step of bringing active movement directly into the classroom.

Some schools, however, are discovering the value of making coordinated active movement—dance—part of the regular curriculum.

Whether it takes up a whole class period or a five-minute “stand up and stretch” break, letting everyone dance together has benefits beyond fitness and energy release:

  • Dancing builds flexibility and decreases risk of injury—both physical and mental.
  • By moving together to a beat, students learn to feel part of a codependent organism (classroom community).
  • Organized dance can also be used to exercise the imagination and open the mind to new possibilities: “Pretend you’re a jungle explorer … a tiger … a gorilla. … March on your tiptoes … in slow motion … while reaching for the sky.”
  • Dancing helps children express emotions they may have difficulty putting into words.
  • Dancing is scientifically proven to boost memory and improve overall attitudes toward self and life.

Plus, the very word “dance” carries more positive connotations than “exercise,” even when both incorporate identical aerobic and/or flexibility movements. Dance implies fun and freedom; exercise implies duty and drudgery. (Nearly every culture includes some form of dance in its sacred and celebratory traditions—and reserves “exercises” for the military.)


How to Bring Dance into Your Classroom

Even if your school offers separate dance classes, teachers do well to make some regular dance activity part of their daily or weekly routines. Where the only dance opportunities come in formal classes, the benefits may be lost among best-grades competition, performance anxiety, and students opting not to sign up.

When introducing dance to a “regular” classroom:

  • Let the kids suggest and vote on dance styles and accompanying music.
  • Alternate between high-energy and slow-stretching emphases—and, occasionally, bring in something brand new for the kids to experience.
  • Especially if you’re the “dance pioneer” in your school, beware of getting so loud as to distract other classes: you don’t want to sour fellow teachers on the dance concept.
  • Conclude each dance session with “cool-down” movements so students can ease smoothly back into academic learning.
  • Encourage everyone to cut loose and have fun!

At Shady Oak, we emphasize active dance because it improves coordination, nurtures creativity, and fosters community. Call us at (281) 344-1291 and ask about our Disco Fridays program.

Science Backs Us Up! Further Resources on the Topic