Breadth of LEARN schools

Creative Movement, Teen Outreach Show Breadth of LEARN Programs
Creative Movement

Through jumping and dancing, children in Kate Hubbard’s Creative Movement class become elephants or airplanes. They tell stories through their wiggles, all while laughing and singing along to music played in their classroom at The Friendship School (TFS).

Not far away, 7th graders at Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School (DLAMMS) are creating their own community service projects, assisting those nearby and getting to know residents of all ages. They are becoming volunteers and mentors while developing empathy and social-emotional learning skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives.

Both initiatives – Creative Movement and the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) – are brand new to their respective schools for the 2018-19 school year. They represent the innovative programming that LEARN strives to offer students from throughout the region.

“LEARN’s Theory of Action is all about innovation, collaboration, and service,” said LEARN Executive Director Dr. Eileen Howley. “Programs like Creative Movement and TOP illustrate the breadth of what we can offer our students and the connections we can make with the districts we serve.”

Waterford-based TFS introduced Creative Movement this year to complement to its inquiry theme. The NAEYC-accredited school accepts 3 and 4 year old pre-kindergarten students and kindergarteners from throughout southeastern Connecticut, offering a nurturing and engaging program to instill children with lifelong learning skills. Students are encouraged to explore their curiosities, ask questions, and take part in activities that brings their learning to life.

Creative Movement fits well into the inquiry theme, encouraging expression through kinesthetic learning, improvisational movement, and drama. On a given day, children are challenged to tell stories through dance, utilizing the entire classroom to move and be as silly as they want. There are elements of yoga, interpretive dance, theatre, and story-telling woven into the dynamic course.

If the kids aren’t having fun, they’re not learning,” Hubbard said. “The best part of this job for me is to be able to make it fun and engaging and joyful. It’s such an amazing thing to be able to do for kids.”

Hubbard was previously a kindergarten teacher at TFS. She said she was inspired by her own experiences as a child in creating the curriculum for Creative Movement. She wanted to provide a setting where students can thrive, build their confidence, and develop a love of storytelling.

“I love teaching Creative Movement because every kid can get something out of it, Hubbard said. “All levels and abilities can learn through movement. It’s one of the earliest forms of communication that humans develop and it comes so naturally to children.”

DLAMMS is also located in Waterford. The school enrolls 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in a small, close-knit setting that emphasizes connections, challenging academic experiences, and presenting choices for learning.

The school introduced and mandated TOP for all its 7th graders, following a successful pilot program last year. The national program promotes positive development of adolescents through adult role models, interactive discussion, and community service. Students are encouraged to create their own service projects and work in groups to achieve goals. Additionally, TOP provides a safe environment to discuss important developmental topics and a forum for students to connect with one another.

“Students get to connect with their community and learn in a way that is different than the traditional educational model,” said Sharon Beesley, a social worker at DLAMMS who facilitates TOP.

While TOP is a national initiative, the DLAMMS chapter is unique to the region. Already, students have visited local senior centers, where they’ve built friendships and established trust with residents who are generations older than themselves. Other 7th graders are working with much younger students, including the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children at TFS. Recently, DLAMMS took a field trip to the nearby school, where students interacted together in a gym class.

Beesley said students learn about themselves through their structured activities with others. Additionally, the chance to talk to one another about serious and personal topics can be intimidating, but is ultimately beneficial to students’ emotional development and understanding of their peers.

“It’s so satisfying to see students take risks and to succeed in what they are doing,” Beesley said.

TFS and DLAMMS students hula hoop.
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