Education in Motion: Bringing movement to Colorado classrooms

Participants in the Education in Motion seminar making angles with their bodies to enhance geometry lession
Education in Motion participants working with Louis Baldwin, a 4th grade teacher in Denver Public Schools, to explore ways to learn geometry concepts with their bodies.

Imagine teaching students geometry without a paper and pencil. Instead, students form the shapes with their bodies to see and feel the difference in geometric structures. Elbows form acute, right and obtuse angles. Fingers carefully align to form rectangles and parallelograms. Groups of students collaborate to form more complex polygons.

This is more than just a hypothetical teaching method; it is one that educators across Colorado have implemented in their classrooms after attending the CSU Dance Education in Motion Professional Development seminar at CSU.  Each summer, the seminar gives preK-12 educators across the state the opportunity to learn how to incorporate movement in teaching traditional classroom subjects and gain professional development credit. As the director Lisa Morgan says, the program is about “giving teachers the permission to teach through movement.”

A unique approach

Lisa Morgan
Lisa Morgan, Instructor in the CSU Dance Program

According to Morgan, “The whole program is to help teachers find new ways to complement their already amazing teaching.” The seminar focuses on effectively integrating movement in traditional classroom subjects while emphasizing the development of social and emotional awareness. Through a combination of lectures, movement-based sessions, and reflection and planning periods, educators learn how they can use movement to enhance their lessons.

With the program capping its enrollment at 30, an intimate forum is created for participants to discuss the everyday classroom challenges that accompany teaching. Together, educators learn and assess creative ways to use movement as a problem-solving technique, meeting the needs of diverse learners, accommodating increasing class sizes, and allowing children to move.

Engaging educators across Colorado

Education in Motion offers the opportunity for CSU faculty to create meaningful connections with preK-12 educators across the state.  Through the sharing of innovative teaching methods, faculty and educators partner to provide a better education for Colorado’s students.

“If more teachers learned and used the strategies we learned in this class, there would be a lesser need for administrative and counseling support for individual students,” said elementary guidance counselor Gretta St. Martin. “The impact of this will undoubtedly result in a positive school climate and greater academic growth and performance.”

This three-dimensional teaching method has also proved to be instrumental in encouraging discussions relating to diversity and inclusion within the classroom.  Denver Public Schools dance teacher Colby Nelson from Green Valley Elementary said he has used activities learned in the seminar to create lessons centered around positive self-speak and awareness of others.

Past and present

Since its founding in 2013 by dance instructor Lisa Morgan and former Director of Dance Jane Slusarski-Harris, the purpose of the program has remained constant: equipping educators with the tools and confidence to weave movement into their teaching. This goal has been achieved through the continued involvement of CSU Dance, the start-up funding from the Carl A. Bimson Humanities Endowment, the College of Liberal Arts and the continued funding from the CSU Lilla B. Morgan Endowment Fund.

Thanks to the efforts of Morgan and her department, the seminar continues to grow and improve its methods each year. One tactic Morgan uses to gauge the program’s effectiveness is a survey administered to participants before and after the seminar. The feedback from this survey is used to measure the overall usefulness of the seminar’s content as well as which areas could be expanded upon in future seminars.

Fulfilling the needs of these educators is of the utmost importance to Morgan. Her goal is to create a collaborative space and to “expand programming to meet the needs of teachers.” The repeat attendance of many educators and glowing feedback from the seminar demonstrate that Morgan has been successful in achieving this goal year after year.

Future program offerings

This summer, Morgan and her team will once again empower teachers to understand and implement kinesthetic teaching in their own schools. During the four-day session held June 8-11, 2020, educators will learn the newest techniques and benefits of integrating movement in the classroom.

For more information including registration details, visit the CSU Dance Education in Motion webpage.