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My First Experience with an Arts for Learning Program

By Olivia Funderburg, Marketing and Communications Intern

I had the privilege of watching the middle-schoolers of Marion Academy participate in the Arts for Learning program, Cultural Dance of West Africa, led by dancer Ronne Stone. Ronne worked with them on rhythm and got them singing and dancing. She taught them certain dances which originated from Africa and talked about her own African heritage.

Ronne started the class by introducing herself and for the first half taught them how to play the drums and sing an African song. She explained what rhythm was and how different parts of the drum speak in different tones. She then led the students through a rhythm pattern where they followed along with her and tried to copy what she was doing. The next part of the program was teaching the children an African song. Ronne taught them the lyrics and correct pronunciation. The students then put both the drumming and singing together. This last step proved to be a little rhythmically challenging so they were broken into groups to perform the song.

After teaching them the drums and a song, Ronne taught them a welcoming dance. The dancing got the students really excited. They were taught different movements and the meaning of each movement. After learning this welcoming dance they stood in their circle and Ronne led the dance through clapping. The smiles of the children grew bigger throughout the whole process of learning this dance. The last thing Ronne did with them was a little bit of free style and Simon Says. Each kid was given the chance to get in the center of the circle and do their own moves. She had them running around the room dancing and laughing. Ronne was able to teach these kids so many amazing things while helping them feel comfortable to express themselves.

Art and music provide children with a unique experience. Not only do they learn something new, but they are able to break out of their comfort zone and have a positive experience learning. The arts provide a safe environment where it is okay to act silly and have fun. I watched Ronne Stone work with these children with patience and love, while helping them feel comfortable in their own skin. At the beginning of class, some students did not seem very interested and acted like they did not want to be there, but by the end they were all actively participating with smiles on their face.

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