SINGAPORE - 'Step, swing, twirl, again, let's step, swing and twirl' - as Primary One students at Zhenghua Primary School attend their dance lessons, they are able to identify the different dance movements while grooving along to the music.
Dance lessons are integrated as part of the school's formal curriculum and the school tries to infuse dance, music and visual arts to engage students in learning. For example, to get students interested in the stories found in their STELLAR textbooks, the school encourages them to enact stories through songs and dance during English lessons. As students progress to upper-primary levels, they are exposed to various ethnic and international dances which also help them understand more about the different cultures in the world.
Some examples include Latin, Jazz and Ballroom dancing - which appeal to most, if not all students.
With a structured arts programme that is applied across the school curriculum, activities and CCAs, students are exposed to a wide range of art forms, such as dance, visual arts and music.
'We have seen our children blossom through the arts education programme as we try to make the arts accessible to all students. We realise that they are able to better appreciate the aesthetics and we also discover how creative some children can be,' said Mrs Avinash Murugesuvari, the Head-of-Department of School Niche & Partnership in the school.
Discovering his Passion in Dance
Chew Jia You, a Primary Six student in the school, found his passion in Indian dance when he was first introduced to dance in Primary One. Initially, he was hesitant to choose Indian dance as his CCA, but he remembered one of the stories that Mrs Avinash shared about how a Chinese student had pursued his interest in Indian dance and enjoyed the cultural experience.
'I like Indian dance as I enjoy learning new and difficult steps. Although I am the only Chinese boy in this CCA, it does not stop me from developing this passion as it is a form of self-expression. My parents are very supportive and I also got to make new friends from different cultures who have joined the Indian dance CCA as well,' said Jia You.
Aside from Jia You, the 30-member strong Indian Dance CCA consists of students coming from all walks of life, ethnic groups and gender.
Strong Partnership with the Community
Dance is also a niche programme in Zhenghua Primary School and the school reaches out to the community by collaborating with the Bukit Panjang Community Centre during festivals to bring dance performances and arts to residents. In addition, the school lends support to their cluster schools to explore the role of dance in arts education.
Since 2009, the school has been organising an annual two-day Dance Symposium for schools in its cluster. As a part of professional development, dance instructors from all the schools are invited to learn from experts about body conditioning, stage image and free movement. Other activities include bringing students on learning journeys to different arts institutions, such as the School of the Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts.
'The symposium provides a good platform for teachers and instructors involved in arts education to come together to share best practices, challenges and solutions,' said Mrs Avinash.
This year, Zhenghua Primary School received the highest accolade of the National Arts Education Award in January, and is one of four schools recognised for championing the arts, adopting good practices and developing comprehensive activities across various art forms. Jointly developed by the National Arts Council and the Ministry of Education, this biennial award celebrates arts education efforts in schools and has seen participation from more than 200 schools since 2003.
'We see dance and arts as more than a performance, as it can also be a form of service to the community,' said Mrs Avinash.
This article is reproduced with permission from Ministry of Education, Singapore. Go to Schoolbag.sg for more education news and features.