917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
Written by YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
Every year is a joy working with Jessica Leaper’s language delayed preschool class at Marindale in San Rafael. This year was especially engaging because she invited several
students from Santa Margarita, a near by mainstream preschool, to join us weekly. She and the teachers from Santa Margarita Preschool have been looking for a way to integrate these two schools, and this Arts Unites Us residency was the first concrete step they were able to take toward this goal.
The presence of the Santa Margarita students greatly motivated Jessica’s students to move beyond their comfort zone and engage in activities that were new to them. We noticed that they were more fully engaged in the music and the movement and were more apt to accept new songs and dances into their repertoire.
Jessica’s students also made great strides in their musicianship, more than they had in the past. They were able to follow melodies in accuracy I had not seen before, and they were even able to read short rhythmic phrases by the end of the residency!
Now that Jessica’s students have fiends they feel comfortable with at Santa Margarita, they are traveling to that school site each week to participate in their music program as well.
YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
Brain Dance at Marindale Early Intervention
“I FEEL my brain getting smarter! I feel my head getting bigger!” “B” from Meriam Granger’s pre-K language immersion class after her third session with “Brain Dance.”
Brain Dance was developed by Anne Green Gilbert, and it is comprised of eight types of movements based on the developmental stages of a baby goes through during the first year of life. The steps are: Breath, Tactile, Core-Distal, head-tail, upper-lower, body side, cross lateral and vestibular. There has been quite a few encouraging studies about the use of Brain Dance with students of all ages. I have been using it in variations in my VSA classes this year. Each of my classes have very different ability levels, and I found myself adjusting it to fit each scenario. Below are ways in which I found it most effective.
Class of autistic students age 3-5:
This group thrives on routine, so the key to having brain dance work with this class was to introduce it early in the 10 week residency and practicing it daily. I gave the steps to the teacher, and she made sure to reinforce the movement.
Class of students with limited mobility:
This class was challenging because they were not able to move their bodies enough to participate in brain dance, so we all, classroom teacher and aides included, were very hands on. We helped them manipulate their limbs and as needed, and listened to gleeful shouts when we spun their wheel chairs at the final stage of the dance.
Class of language delayed preschoolers:
There were two important things to keep in mind with this group. First, they were very young, so keeping the pace up was essential. I also used high energy, fun music to keep them engaged. I also needed to be very clear with the language I used. I needed to keep in mind that they needed me to use simple vocabulary to describe and demonstrate each movement.
Thank you to the Marin Community Foundation for their generous support of this and all of our programs serving students of different abilites!
This was my sixth year teaching Music and Movement in Youth in Arts’ VSA program, and I was lucky enough to be assigned to work with four amazing teachers, Rockne Beeman, Laura Becker, Meriam Grainer Cox and Jessica Leaper. We had a wonderful time singing, dancing, playing and learning.
Rockne Beeman’s class of upper elementary students were a challenging joy to teach. He has a class of students with a variety of behaviors and levels of engagement. Some students would fully participate and sit in the circle and others would listen from different parts of the room. What was most facinating this year was that the students who had worked with me previously would suddenly focus and fully participate when they heard specific familiar songs. One such song was A Rig-a-Jig, a song that requires students to dance with a teacher and/or myself. Their favorite song by far was “Goin on a Bear Hunt,” where we would practice phonemes that are difficult for the students while we marched around and dance.
Another discovery was that certain students who had previously been non-verbal are now speaking and even singing. The photo below shows one of these students singing his favorite “penny game” song.
Laura Becker and Carla Victoria’s elementary special day classes were combined for a wonderfully large group every week. They accomplished a great deal over the course of ten weeks. The biggest challenge with these two groups was the fact that their abilities were so vastly different. Laura’s students need a great deal of assistance physically. All were in wheel chairs or other supportive devises and were not able to move on their own. Carla’s class was very active and needed to be constantly stimulated or they would lose focus. The best strategy I found for working with these two classes was to pair Carla’s most active students with Laura’s most inactive. They became “helpers” and danced and sang to the students who did not have the ability to participate in that way.
Meriam Grainge-Cox’s students were the most high functioning of my groups this year and they were able to perform quite complicated musical phrases despite the fact that they were 3 and 4 year olds. My focus with this group was to create a class where they could learn to be autonomous and run as much of the class as possible. This was very successful, and the last day of class was almost completely run by the young students
Jessica Leaper’s class was incredibly fun. They absolutely loved singing train songs and their favorite activity was dancing to Greg and Steve’s Choo Choo. There are a number of autistic students in this class, so I focused primarily on creating a clear routine over the course of the first couple weeks. As they grew more comfortable with the progression of the class. I was able to add more complex music and movement problems for them to solve. By the end of the 10 weeks the class was at a point of running most of the activities themselves.
All in all it was a fantastic school year, and each of these classes and their teachers made it an exciting experience.
Youth in Arts is partnering with the Marin Symphony to feature children’s artwork inspired by music in the Symphony’s annual Family Concert on February 10. The work will be displayed on monitors in the lobby at the performance, as well as in a projected backdrop for the concert finale.
Mentor Artists Suzanne Joyal and Julia James have worked with 350 students at four schools–Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito/Marin City and Mary Silveira, Bahia Vista and Marindale in San Rafael, teaching students new visual art techniques to help them create art inspired by the music of Hector Berlioz, which will be performed by the Symphony, along with music from the film Brave. Read more…
Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal has just completed a 10-session residency with preschoolers in four classrooms at Marindale School. Marindale houses special education and preschool programs operated by the Marin County Office of Education. Students experimented with drawing, painting, and sculpture. Students engaged their muscles and their creativity while practicing sharing, making choices, sticking, squishing, squeezing, stretching, color mixing, blending, gluing, and so much more.