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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cultural Dances and Stories from Around the World: A Discovery of World Cultures through Dance and Drama, Curriculum Designed for Grades K-5


In 2005, the University of Hawaii at Manoa ArtsBridge America program and Friends of Ali’iolani Elementary School allowed an MFA candidate in Youth Theatre Studies to implement a sixty hour creative dance and drama curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grades during the 2004-2005 school year. This fine arts curriculum was designed to address the lack of fine arts instruction within the school and provide students opportunities to partake in arts instruction. If it was not for Friends of Ali’iolani, the school would have had no choice but to continue without fine arts instruction due to lack of state funding. This curriculum represents a collaborative study of how dance and drama enhance curriculum subjects such as math, science, reading, history, language arts, physical education, geography, and writing. “Cultural Dances and Stories From Around The World” was designed to provide children creative opportunities to learn about different world cultures through dance and drama. Three teaching methods were used: learning through dance and drama, learning about dance and drama, and learning about oneself through dance and drama. Learning through drama activities provided children with situations in which they solved and evaluated problems in small groups. Learning about dance and drama allowed students opportunities to learn and apply basic dramatic elements pertaining to theatre and dance as performance art forms. Lastly, activities that focused on learning about oneself and others through drama opened doors for children to express themselves and their imaginations in a safe and nurturing environment. These concepts addressed the State of Hawaii’s Educational Standards from the aforementioned eight areas of instruction. These concepts were explored in and out of the classroom through various problem-based and performance based learning activities. Problem-based learning activities included pre and post assessments administered to track how well students were retaining and transferring what they learned kinesthetically to paper; analysis of literature, poetry, and children’s stories from around the world; script writing; and sharing in oral form. The third through fifth grade students participated in an original play performance that they themselves wrote, adapted, and premiered in for their peers, teachers, school faculty, parents, and community.

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