Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Elementary Ed, Higher Ed Students Collaborate on Semester-Long Arts Integration Project

Friday, June 03, 2016

Forty-five students enrolled in EDN 414, an undergraduate course titled Integrating Arts in Elementary Education, and 18 students enrolled in EDL 558, a master’s level course titled Social Justice Topics in Education, collaborated on a project this spring, incorporating the arts to teach social justice concepts.

The project, initiated by WCE assistant professor Christine Liao, culminated in a live student performance in Kenan Auditorium on May 2.

Liao develops an arts integration project for her students each semester. “In the past, students have used film as a creative representation of what they have learned, but the projects were developed individually,” she said. “This semester I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to create a college-level integration for students, using Dance-a-lorus as inspiration.”

Dance-a-lorus is a live event performed annually at Wilmington’s Cucalorus film festival that combines choreographed dance and film components.

Liao reached out to James DeVita for help planning the project. DeVita is an assistant professor and coordinator of WCE’s higher education program. He is also an accomplished dancer, dance instructor and Dance-a-lorus performer.

Together they decided that DeVita’s students would conduct research on social justice topics and share reflections with Liao’s students, who would then create videos and choreograph performances to bring the reflections to life.

As the semester got underway, graduate students worked in pairs to research the experiences of nine marginalized student groups. The groups included LGB, transgender, Native American, African American males, individuals with disabilities, multi-racial/multi-ethnic, non-Christian religious, female veterans and low socio-economic individuals.

Liao’s students also worked in groups, each corresponding to a research topic assigned by DeVita.

Work began at a dance workshop facilitated by DeVita and Kristen Brogdon, director of UNCW’s Office of the Arts. The workshop was designed to teach dance vocabulary, basic movement ideas and how to translate concept into movement.

“Only three of my 45 undergraduate students had a dance background, and many were uncomfortable with the subject matter,” Liao said. “Most were scared out of their comfort zone when work on the project started.”

Over the course of the semester, the undergraduate students met three times with their graduate mentors to discuss research findings and share creative work in progress. EDN 414 students also did independent research, bi-weekly reflections and applied learning activities to build a base of knowledge on the assigned topic before developing video and choreographed dance routines with which to portray it.

Brogdon met with students to provide ideas and feedback on work in progress and booked Kenan Auditorium for the live student performance on May 2.

Liao and DeVita said the project was effective on several levels.

“It’s part of a higher education administrator’s role to supervise, advise and mentor undergraduate students,” DeVita said. “A bonus outcome was that the exposure to working with undergraduate students ramped up the intensity of the graduate students’ social justice work. They really cared how the undergraduate students represented their work and this made them focus more critically on an accurate portrayal of the issues.”

Liao said the project helped her students learn to value nontraditional forms of knowledge. “They had to take a risk. They had to ‘put themselves out there,’ literally walking in other peoples shoes,” she said. “It increased their depth of understanding and in final reflections most students said they enjoyed it.”

“Higher ed and elementary ed aren’t groups that often come together,” DeVita said. “The project provided a rare opportunity for dialogue across the P-20 spectrum.”

To view the students’ performance visit:  https://appserv02.uncw.edu/tealvision/player.aspx?VID=R%2bNhBU5p5%2b4%3d