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Woodland third-graders dance to sharpen their math skills

Believe it or not, this is a Woodland Elementary School third-grade math class led by ArtSparks professional teaching artist dancers Brittany Medlong, left, and Abigail Viscomi, in the black shirt in the background. At far right is classroom teacher Natasha Jolin.

      “Two, four, six, eight are multipliers of two!” That mathematical cadence and others like it echoed through the Woodland Elementary School gym Wednesday, accompanied by the dancing feet of third-graders.

      Professional teaching artist dancers from ArtSparks in Akron are visiting Woodland on five consecutive Wednesdays. Their mission: Ignite an interest in math that will carry over to the classroom.

      Third-grade teacher Natasha Jolin is seeing the impact after just two weeks.

      “Students who are not that outgoing in the classroom are enjoying this high-energy movement. They are participating. They are involved,” she said.

      Teaching artist Brittany Medlong led the 45-minute session, demonstrating a series of arm, leg and foot movements that students repeated with mathematical chants. Ron Hazelett, ArtSparks musical director, accompanied the session on a keyboard.

      At one point Medlong divided the students into two groups, Team Diamond and Team Triangle. She stood a boy at the front of the teams and called him “Number 12.” Two students on either side of him were his cousins, Medlong said.

      “What two cousin numbers of this side multiply together to get 12?” she asked.

      “Two and six!” called out Team Diamond.

      “And what about the two cousins on the other side?” Medlong asked.

      “Three and four!” said Team Triangle.

      ArtSparks is a continuation of Woodland’s arts integration program which began last year with Tom Evert, a nationally renowned Cleveland dancer and choreographer, who joined teachers to teach science through dance. The participation of ArtSparks, a nonprofit, is made possible by a grant from the Richland County Foundation.

      Arts integration seeks to reach students through nontraditional teaching methods, such as music, dance, storytelling, puppetry and drama. Teaching artists and classroom teachers collaborate to integrate the arts into core subjects in order to improve academic and social-emotional outcomes such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

      ArtSparks’ web site says in part, “ArtSparks professional teams of dance instructors and musicians spark a joy for learning in participants’ hearts and minds by engaging them in innovative dance programming designed to complement core academic learning.”

      Jolin likes what she has seen during the first two Wednesdays.

      “It’s exciting. I think the kids’ enthusiasm will continue in the classroom,” she said.

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