While our young children enjoyed the recent term break, over 100 Ruahine Kindergarten Association teachers were engaged in professional development, honing their skills in dance and drama.
Traditionally thought of as ‘hobbies’, it’s important to stress that dance and drama provide valuable educational opportunities from an early age, directly contributing to physical, creative and mental development. While perhaps knocked out of us as adults, you can’t help but notice performance is a purely natural thing in a young child.
Led by Dr Tracey-Lynne Cody, from Massey University’s Arts Education and Initial Teacher Education, the workshop allowed our kindergarten teachers to fully engage with their own sense of play and imagination. From the get-go comfort zones were stretched through warm up techniques, shaking themselves off like ants and freezing like possums in a tree.
Dance exploration is literacy and movement in motion, it can involve the entire body or just one part in isolation. Using verbs such as skip, shuffle and tip-toe, changing directions from forward to backwards and diagonally, it is quickly evident that dance teaches a familiarity with one’s own body, spatial awareness and the use of energy. Dancing in a group adds further dynamics through synergised performances.
Drama, too, is incredibly important. Drama is about telling stories and invokes empathy, confidence, and communication skills, cultivated through the adoption of new and exciting personalities, environments, or expertise. Role-playing is a great example of drama in action; personifying superheroes, pirates and hairdressers are particularly popular with pre-schoolers.
The workshop focussed on ‘the mantle of the expert’ - how playing a head chef, doctor, or gardener aids in exploring effective solutions to a myriad of problems that may arise. This in turn helps in the development of critical thinking and empathy.
Connected to Te Whāriki’s strands of communication, belonging, and exploration, RKA’s Dance and Drama Workshop provided critical reflection on teaching strategies. Learning how dance and drama can be extended through play and what benefits the activities would have in a classroom setting has led towards the formulation of future lesson planning.
At kindergarten and at home, we encourage you all to throw on some music, don a costume, and let loose. Not only is it educational, dance and drama provide feel-good fun moments and are great for well-being.