School Spotlight: Field Community School
By Eleanor Purdy
“Who knows what country the Tango is from?” Teaching Artist Heather Johnson asks her 5th grade students at Field Community School, introducing them to a new dance style. “Argentina!” The correct answer emerges. Ms. Heather is ready with the follow-up question: “What’s the capital of Argentina?”
This is Field Community School’s first year participating in Dancing Classrooms with Heart of Dance, the first school partner from the Minneapolis School District. Ms. Heather and Ms. Djenane Saint Juste are Teaching Artists in residence there, working with four 5th grade classrooms. Located in South Minneapolis and serving students in grades 5-8, Field boasts a strong music program, hard-working students, dedicated teachers and strong roots in the community.
Principal VaNita Miller loves working with students in the middle grades. “They are trying to define who they are, looking at and analyzing everything, and really learning that the world is bigger than they are,” she says. She saw Dancing Classrooms as an opportunity for her students to grow in new ways. “I’m most excited about the social and emotional learning part of the Dancing Classrooms experience,” she reflects. “It teaches respect and teamwork. In addition, students can really try something new in a safe environment.” Her focus on Social Emotional Learning is aligned with that of new Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff.
The students are having fun learning the Tango this week, and are becoming more comfortable dancing with a partner. They’re also starting to get excited about the possible challenge of competition. “What is really exciting to see is that students who normally don’t shine at school are the ones who really shine when dancing,” observes Principal Miller.
The kids’ classroom teacher, Teresa Doyle, is learning and having fun alongside her students. Ms. Heather can see her engagement with the lessons: “She’s great at pretending she doesn’t know [the dance move], because she knows the kids love to correct her!” Ms. Doyle also appreciates the opportunity to interact with her students on a different level than when teaching her regular curriculum.
After the Tango, students will move on to Swing and Waltz. They’ll also begin to prepare for their Culminating Event on November 29, when the dancers will perform for their teachers, families and fellow students. Principal Miller is already looking forward to it. “I think the students will be so proud of what they have accomplished by the end of the lessons and will be ready to show off to their parents.