Ball State University are using dance to teach team-building and social skills to children in a Muncie school.

The 14 students students are mixing dance with life skills at Longfellow Elementary School where children have an opportunity to learn while having fun, according to junior Hannah Bertrand of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bertrand, who is pursuing a bachelor of fine arts in dance with a minor in theatre.

“We are teaching dance to students, grades one through four, and coming up with exercises for our lessons,” said Bertrand, a graduate of Pius X High School. “My classmates and I are getting hands-on experience in teaching dance through this immersive learning project.”

The project, called DANCE! Muncie After-School, is led by Ball State dance professor Melanie Swihart. The project allows college students to learn how to teach children the art of dance while providing them with different ways to conceptualize community, social networking, and problem solving. Students create lesson plans to get hands-on experience in teaching dance to children who might not receive this type of education otherwise. In Muncie Community Schools, about three of every four students receive free or reduced-price meals.

“Dance education is expensive and often out of reach for low-income families, and arts education and art exposure in general are often something rare for today’s youth,” Swihart said. “DANCE! Muncie After-School addresses these two issues while providing future educators with a real-world experience in bringing arts education, particularly dance, to schools.”

Bertrand hopes to perform for a dance company, in musical theater or in a commercial venue such as a cruise ship. She also has an interest in choreography.

“In my time here, Ball State has empowered me through the teachers, mentors and professional opportunities it has provided me,” Bertrand said. “The program has also allowed its students opportunities to perform their work in cities like Indianapolis, Chicago and New York to be seen by agents and directors.”

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