Did you know that the month of March is dedicated to dance in schools? Every March, the National Dance Education Organization celebrates Dance in Schools Month. We recognize the benefits of dance education as part of the PreK-12 curriculum, acknowledge the achievements of students and teachers in the school setting, and advocate for access to high-quality dance education in all schools. In 2021, it is even more critical that we unite to raise awareness of the importance of PreK-12 dance education and celebrate the incredible accomplishments of PreK-12 educators and their students in the face of incredible challenges this year.
Why is dance education in PreK-12 schools important?
Research and anecdotal evidence indicate that dance, when taught by a qualified dance educator, contributes to students’ physical, emotional, and social well-being by providing a method of physical fitness, an outlet for personal expression, and a means to develop empathy and social-emotional skills. Students who study dance develop 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, and creativity, and dance has been shown to positively affect students’ attitudes, perceptions, and values. When integrated into the K-12 curriculum, dance keeps students engaged in school, enhances learning when integrated into academic subjects, and improves overall school culture.
In-school dance programs are a vital part of the dance community. They ensure that all students have access to dance education, regardless of their background, ability, and socioeconomic status. Students who discover dance as part of the school curriculum often seek out further instruction at studios and in after-school programs, and go on to attend college dance programs. The entire dance field benefits from in-school PreK-12 dance programs.
Why is it important to recognize Dance in Schools Month in 2021?
School districts will be facing budget shortfalls due to state and local deficits caused by the pandemic recession. These cutbacks -- along with the costs associated with the continued need for Personal Protective Equipment in performing arts classrooms, a focus on remedial curriculum, and scheduling modifications to address learning loss -- will likely impact student access to dance and other arts education. Funding for arts education is in trouble. It is vital that we ensure that funding for dance education in K-12 schools is maintained to support the well-being of all students, their school communities, and the field of dance itself. Celebrating Dance in Schools Month this year will help to raise awareness of the value of school-based dance programs, foster enthusiasm for dance among students and families, and show that there is broad-based support for dance education in PreK-12 schools.
We invite you to join us in celebrating dance in PK-12 education this March. Here are 6 ways you can get involved:
Get the facts about dance education - and share them!: NDEO is a great resource for information about the benefit of dance education in schools. Check out Evidence: A Report on the Impact of Dance in the K-12 Setting and Stand Up for Dance in America’s K-12 Schools. NDEO members will also find valuable articles about dance in PK-12 education in the Dance Education Literature and Research descriptive index (DELRdi), Journal of Dance Education, and Dance Education in Practice. These resources will equip you with the information needed to successfully advocate for dance in your school! Not yet an NDEO member? Join today!
Participate in the Arts ARE Education Campaign: As we celebrate Dance in Schools Month this year, NDEO is concurrently participating in the Arts ARE Education Campaign, a new national campaign that will emphasize funding, maintaining, and growing PreK-12 dance and arts education programs in the 2021-22 school year and beyond. Learn more about this campaign, and find out how you can participate, here.
Recognize your dance students: If your school does not yet host a chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), start one this month! NHSDA is a great way to promote dance in your school and honor your students’ artistic merit, academic achievement, and leadership. Your students will get a much-needed emotional boost from the chance to be honored in the midst of difficult and uncertain circumstances. Your program will benefit as the NHSDA creates parity with other disciplines that offer their own honor societies, such as music and math. If you already have an active NHSDA chapter at your school, plan a special chapter service project or virtual celebration during the month of March. On the NHSDA website, you can find suggestions for running your chapter virtually.
Show off your school’s dance program: While this may seem like a difficult task in the age of online school and social distancing, there are many fun and creative ways that you can let your school and community see how amazing your dance program is!
Create a fun dance film to share with your school and community.
Submit a press release about your dance program to school and community newspapers.
Share video clips from class or a recent concert on social media pages for your program, school, or district.
Host virtual dance classes open to all students, staff, and community members.
Advocate for your school dance program: Write a letter to the editor of your local paper highlighting your school’s dance program and the value of dance education in schools. Call your local government officials or attend a school board meeting to encourage more access to and support for dance in your school or district. Talk with your principal or superintendent about the important role dance plays in education and its impact on your students during the pandemic. Share the measures that you have put in place to keep your students safe and support their social-emotional growth throughout this difficult year.
Let your students be heard: Plan a class project in which students prepare video or written testimonials about the role of dance in their education and the importance of having access to dance in their school. Share with your school community in email newsletters, on social media, or in the school newspaper.
As the leading voice for dance arts education nationally, NDEO is proud to celebrate Dance in Schools Month, especially now, when PreK-12 dance education needs us most! We recognize the critical role that school-based dance programs provide in ensuring access to dance education for all students, regardless of their background, ability, and socioeconomic status. We will continue to work alongside our members and national partners in the Arts ARE Education Campaign to advance dance arts education, ensuring that school dance programs are maintained and fully funded in 2021 and beyond.
How will you be celebrating Dance in Schools Month? Share in the comments, or on social media - be sure to tag NDEO and use the hashtag #DanceInYourSchools.
Photo 1 by Angela Torres, Photo 2 by Hetty King, Photo 3 by Stephen Csejtey