Moving Field Guides: Dance and Environmental Learning

Moving Field Guide participants create dance moves inspired by the natural world.

Anticipating the arrival of 15 kindergartners and first graders, we quickly surveyed Collington Square Park in Baltimore, Maryland.  Which trees and fields might offer the most inspiration for creating a dance with the students?  Where would they discover the leaves, twigs, and insects that would become a foundation for developing knowledge about the natural world?

As the students came running up the hill, we knew that these enthusiastic learners would bring so many ideas and so much joy of their own to the process.  While scientist Mark Twery from the US Forest Service introduced students to the many seeds, birds, squirrels, and insects relying on trees for food shelter, a group of girls discovered a green worm curled around a stick.  Another student then developed a dance move representing the worm and taught it to everyone for incorporation into what became a powerful phrase of movement that provided insight into the vicissitudes of climate, flora and fauna.

Being on a Moving Field Guide and making dances with the students forced me to imagine what having that kind of an experience would have done for my own environmental education when I was in kindergarten.  From our first activity, I knew that it would have made a dramatic difference.  Dance Exchange Adjunct Artist Matt Mahaney led an exciting warm-up that took students through the cardinal directions and taught them how to read a compass.  Last Thursday, alongside our participants, I learned how to read a compass too.  The embodied learning that Moving Field Guides provide connects students to the environment and connected me back to the pleasures of outdoor exploration and the power of the arts in education.

About Ouida Maedel

Ouida is the Partnerships and Development Coordinator at Dance Exchange.