This week, we are in conversation with Katie Moore, Business Director at Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) about how they have pivoted their school residencies in the virtual classroom. You can also check out their short mindful movement videos here.
Your CHI Dance program focuses on mindfulness through movement, primarily for elementary school children. You have created a really robust program since COVID moved programs online, led by your Education Coordinator, Sophie Malin. How are you navigating through five schools, all with different needs?
Teaching virtually is definitely different – program development and delivery takes longer to accomplish and technology can be tricky. We had to figure out what was essential to each class we would usually teach in person, and how we could capture that online. We had to keep our focus on mindfulness which is the core of our program and so important right now.
Sophie did an incredible job developing several different components to the program to make for a robust online experience. All of the content is available through a password protected network of pages on our website. On the homepage, there is a survey for students to complete to ensure they set-up a safe dance space with visuals for context. There is also easy access to supplemental content, such as short meditation videos, called CHI Time videos (linked above). Sophie engaged KYL/D dance artists, some of whom are CHI Dance teachers and some of whom are not, to create these additional videos that provide a mindfulness break that a teacher or student can use any time. Then, the website allows the user to select their school to access their classroom specific content.
Prior to starting the fall session, school partners were given the option to pick from three program offerings: 1) all pre-recorded classes for 9 weeks; 2) a hybrid of 6 pre-recorded classes and 3 live classes; or, 3) 9 live classes. Alongside this weekly class content, we also provide a weekly workbook that directly relates to that week’s lesson, which a teacher can use as they like. To provide additional context, teachers are also given a workbook guide.
How did you coordinate all this with the school?
Sophie set-up meetings with principals, teachers and other school administrators at each partner school to explain the three program options in detail to determine each school’s needs before the fall session started. We already had a plan in place for the curriculum to focus on one of KYL/D’s recent works, Fish & Girl, but allowed flexibility within learning sections of the choreography and inspiration behind the piece to also include components that reinforce classroom topics.
The CHI Dance Workbook provides a different method to engage students with dance and mindfulness. Each week contains pages with emotion check-ins, education tips, guided meditations, mindfulness activities, challenges, coloring pages, journal prompts and free thinking pages. The workbook was edited by retired Elementary School Principal, Teacher and Editor, Sheila Lunger. Sheila helped Sophie develop grade specific versions for our two main age groups Grades K-2 and Grades 3-5 along with the teacher guide book that helps classroom teachers understand the intention behind each exercise and how to adapt it for their needs.
Since our program takes place during the school day, we are using Google Classroom and other online platforms which involves getting permissions for KYL/D’s teaching artists to access the virtual classroom. It helps that the classroom teacher is there to refocus children as needed and to provide their own classroom structure to our work. We were also able to do a survey with our 4th grade students that the teacher assigned to them, which has given us great insights into what type of online learning students feel most comfortable with, what their interests are and feedback on how to improve the program next session. Surveys are also provided to teachers before and after each session to help serve as part of our program evaluation. Sophie has frequent check-ins with teachers and principals throughout the course of each session to ensure that the program is meeting everyone’s expectations.
What did you do out of necessity during COVD that you may keep even after COVID has passed?
Our biggest challenge is that we have a long waitlist of classroom teachers within our current partner schools, let alone other schools who want the program; however, we have a limited amount of human resources and internal capacity with our staff and teaching artists. We are thinking about how we can expand the pre-recorded video program to facilitate in nourishing engagement with our current partner schools and providing an entry point into a potential partnership with a new school. The recorded content could be used as the first step before having classes in person, or maybe be combined with a group of students coming to one of the company’s performances or rehearsals. We all know that the purpose of dancing is to be and move together but maybe these virtual programs are a way to begin to deepen current relationships, build new relationships and expand our reach.
How are you caring for yourself and your teaching artists during this time?
The amazing thing about CHI Dance is that the focus on mindfulness requires you to focus on mindfulness, which is a stress relief tool in and of itself. The videos Sophie and the other dance artists have been developing I’m starting to watch more consistently to provide my own meditation breaks throughout the work day.
Our work requires a lot of collaboration and openness. With CHI Dance sessions, the first step is to always check-in with our teaching artists and have an honest conversation about how many classes they would like to teach and understanding their thoughts on how to improve the curriculum each year. For the digital programs, we understand there will be opportunities to learn how to deliver the program better with more experience. We stay open minded and in frequent communication with each other. Also, I provide Sophie with flexibility to adapt the programs if there is too much on her checklist or if we realize another approach works best. We have a weekly phone call to debrief and learn about what’s going on outside of CHI Dance too. This year, Sophie and I are working on developing more movement training and professional development opportunities in connection with her youth education work. For the other staff and dance artists, I am planning on programs to also focus on training and wellness.
Best. (COVID) Snack. Ever.
Salted pumpkin seeds.
Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.