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NMSU dance outreach program looking to expand, build model school

After a successful pilot year, the New Mexico State University Dance Program and Pan American Dance Institute want to expand their Methods in Learning Kinesthetically or MILK program at Fairacres Elementary School in the fall.


Elementary students in a classroom using body movement to learn.
Students at Fairacres Elementary School participate in the Methods in Learning Kinesthetically outreach program conducted by the New Mexico State University Dance Program and Pan American Dance Institute. (Courtesy Photo)
A bar graph showing growth in reading levels by students at Fairacres Elementary school.
Fairacres Elementary students who participated in the Methods in Learning Kinesthetically outreach program conducted by the New Mexico State University Dance Program and Pan American Dance Institute showed improved scores on their Developmental Reading Assessment, which is used to determine a student?s instructional reading level.

?We want to build a model school at Fairacres by having all of the classrooms participate in kinesthetic learning,? said Debra Knapp, director of the NMSU dance program in the College of Education.

Knapp said the biggest challenge is funding for the program. It costs $5,000 per classroom to run the program, which includes having kinesthetic specialists in each classroom for 16 weeks. The dance program and the Pan American Dance Institute are holding a dance workshop in August to raise funds, but Knapp said sponsors are needed to completely move forward.

?Donations of any amount would be greatly appreciated, Knapp said. ?We want to build a model for helping kids who learn through movement.?

There are three types of learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthic, Knapp said. Visual and auditory are prevelant in most classrooms, students who learn by watching and listening, but kinesthetic learners need to be active, they use movement to concentrate.

Bringing this type of learning to elementary classrooms can improve reading comprehension on standardized tests, improve scores on spelling and improve self-efficacy, Knapp said.

Students at Fairacres who participated during the 2013-2014 school year, which included seven classrooms in grades first, third and fourth, made significant improvements on their Developmental Reading Assessment.

Knapp said the kinesthetic learner poses the greatest challenge to educators because little training has been given for instructing to this style of learning. Moving forward, the program will include a co-teaching component.

?We want to foster teachers creativity, using these methods, we want to create an open environment for the teachers and kids,? Knapp said.

MILK ingredients include using gross-motor, fine motor, sign lanuage and theatrical movement as individuals and in groups. Body writing, body shaping, body sequencing and whole body phrasing are used by the kids to improve literacy.

?These methods help the kinesthetic learner access their muscle memory, increasing the chance the information will be stored in long-term memory,? Knapp said.

For more information or to make a donation to the outreach program, call the Pan American Dance Institute at 575-646-2070.