What are the characteristics of a snake and how does it interact with other animals? To help their Grade 4 students understand the characteristics and behavior of living things as well as how living things interact with each other, South Huntington teachers invited performance artist Dafna Soltes Stein to engage the students in movement studies.
In the fall, the students saw a performance by the PUSH Physical Theatre, which included the appearance of imaginary animals (above). With ongoing curriculum planning with classroom and specialty teachers, Ms. Soltes Stein used the PUSH presentation as a springboard for a residency on animal movement. She challenged the students to use what they were learning about living things and the PUSH performance to embody different animals and create their own animal sculptures.
The students focused on five species: fish, reptiles, mammals, insects and birds. In the warm up circles, students explored animal characteristics and behavior as well as the vocabulary of movement. They considered action verbs that describe the movement of different animals. Ms. Soltes Stein asked the students: "How do you wake up, how do you travel, how do you feed yourself, how do you sleep?"
Together, Ms. Soltes Stein and the students identified what characteristics and behaviors were different and unique among the five species as well as where there was overlap. "For example, insects and birds both have wings," said the performance artist. "However, birds have two wings and insects can have two- to four-segmented wings. Also, birds have two legs and insects have six. It was an opportunity to appreciate the wondrous diversity of the animal kingdom."
Working in small groups, the students created one giant "sculpture" of a chosen creature in a stabile state (below). "I also asked students to consider how their creature mobilizes itself through space," said Ms. Soltes Stein. "They embodied this as a group through movement."
Meanwhile, in the art room, the school's art teacher engaged the students in creating mosaics of imaginary animals.
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