This January, Dawn Lane stepped foot inside Becket Washington Elementary School, a school she has partnered with for over 25 years. For the next two weeks Dawn would lead the first Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion (JPCIM®) residency since January 2020. This residency, and the culminating Pause in the Process sharing, would signify a celebratory milestone in the program’s long history.
Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion® is a nationally recognized curricular approach that connects students to their academic learning through dance. Since 1994, Jacob’s Pillow Artist Educators have partnered with Berkshire County K-12 teachers to engage students and teaches in how movement can be a catalyst to understand their curriculum through the use of choreographic, critical, and imaginative thinking. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Curriculum in Motion’s presence inside schools came to a halt—a change affecting Artist Educators, teachers, and students alike.
It was this prolonged absence that made Dawn so eager to return to this work. She is a lifelong dance artist and educator, and a founding JPCIM® Artist Educator. During this two-week classroom residency, Dawn worked with the third and fourth grade students to dive deeper into their lessons through embodied, kinesthetic learning. While in the past Dawn has been a familiar face around Becket Washington Elementary School, this year it was many students’ first time meeting her.
Inside the third grade classroom, students learned about motion and matter. They paired up with partners to examine push and pull forces, gravity, and magnetism through movement. The fourth graders studied the rock cycle and the layers of the earth, using time, space, and energy to investigate different types of rocks. One excited fourth grader shared how JPCIM® was helping them better understand their studies, saying, “It helps me visualize what the process [the rock cycle] would look like.”
For Dawn, the connection between her work as an artist and the students’ academic studies is an opportunity to connect with the teachers. “I’m not an expert in the curriculum, and the teachers aren’t experts in the dance side of things, so the ongoing learning really encourages us to collaborate,” she said.
While at first some students were shy about the idea of learning by moving, two weeks later they presented their work to families, loved ones, and fellow classmates. The Pause in the Process showing was a great success: students demonstrated their work from the past two weeks and were able to express their findings and perform their choreography for their audience. Dawn recalled that some of the students who had been the most hesitant at the beginning of her residency were completely immersed the day of the performance. For teachers, it was a special opportunity to see students step outside their comfort zone. Students shared how much they would miss JPCIM®, one student admitting, “It will be hard for me when this is over.”
While Dawn’s residency at Becket Washington Elementary School may have come to a close, she is holding these two weeks close to her heart after the long wait. “Post-Covid, it felt a little like this was re-pioneering and reactivating the work.” Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion® will continue its work inside Berkshire County schools, with more residencies planned to return in 2023.
Written by Emma Garber. Published March 2023.