Exploring Checks and Balances in Government…and DanceThursday, December 22, 2016



How can a teacher make the three branches of US government and the balance of power understandable and memorable to fifth graders? Patchogue-Medford Grade 5 teachers asked professional dancer Danielle Marie Fusco, someone who understands the importance of balance and strength, to explore the Articles of the Confederation, the US Constitution and the branches of US government through kinesthetic learning experiences with their students.


Each session of Ms. Fusco’s artist residency began with a discussion. For example, in the first session, the teaching artist and students discussed the Articles of the Confederation. Ms. Fusco asked the students: “Why is the Articles of the Confederation an important document? Why did it cause conflict? What does conflict look and feel like? When people experience conflict, how might their bodies react?” Ms. Fusco then explained two types of movements—locomotive and axial— as well as the use of improvisation. The students participated in two activities—one as a whole group and one as two groups—during which they explored conflict through movement.




During subsequent sessions, Ms. Fusco and the students explored the three branches of US government and the importance of checks and balances. At the same time, the students learned additional dance and movement techniques, such as dance manipulations (mirroring, counterbalance, and symmetry) and the use of energy and space. Working in pairs and small groups, the students developed dance movements inspired by the idea of checks and balances (photos, above and below).


Creative Classroom Collaboratives


In the final lesson, Ms. Fusco introduced RONDO, a pattern used in poetry and music (below). “We explored the choreographic structure of RONDO to understand how the branches of government interact with each other,” she explained. “The Rondo pattern (ABACA…, BABCB…., CACBC…), which is a systematic choreographic pattern, helped the students understand the process of balancing out power.”








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