WATERLOO - Plants sprout, grow, spread their seeds and die. Then the process starts all over again.
The plant cycle is something that Pam Argotsinger's students at Kingsley Elementary School understand, and not just because they've read and talked about it.
Her third- and fourth-grade students performed dances Monday demonstrating the cycle of life plants go through. It was their third day of working with Randy Barron, a Kennedy Center teaching artist and educator from New Mexico, who has been combining creative movement with science concepts to teach Kingsley students about both.
"I'm looking for the places where the science and dancing overlap," said Barron, to teach "mutually reinforcing objectives" on the subjects.
"One of the things that we like about the dance side of things is the different levels," Barron told the students. "When we change levels that captures our eye, doesn't it?"
Groups of students worked on and then performed their plant cycle demonstrations. In one group, students representing seeds bunched themselves on the ground and slowly rose, straightening their legs and stretching their arms, to represent growth. Students' bodies began to droop as the flowers wilted, slowly moving back toward the ground. At the end, students' bodies were tightly bunched back on the ground, representing seeds spread by the dying flowers.
"This is an approach to teaching that's called arts integration," Barron said.
In addition to Argotsinger's students, Barron also has worked with three other classes at the school on scientific concepts like states of matter and systems of the body. He will finish the residency he started last week on Wednesday.
Barron is teaching at Kingsley through a grant awarded to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center at the University of Northern Iowa. He also is providing two evening professional development sessions for teachers at Area Education Agency 267.
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Integrating dance into a lesson incorporates another teaching style to accommodate students who learn in different ways, said Sherice Ortman, Kingsley's expanded learning teacher. "Kids don't just learn one way," she said. "It's not all auditory and visual."
Argotsinger plans on using the creative movement techniques to teach about math, science, vocabulary and reading.
"Obviously, there's part of this activity that requires delivery of instruction more directly," she added. The science concepts students were learning can be taught ahead of the dancing to assess what students already know or be embedded throughout the lesson.
"Everyone's involved, that's what I loved. Everyone's engaged," said Lara Earnest, a Lou Henry Elementary School teacher who was observing the class.
Barron definitely had students' attention throughout the hour-long lesson.
Fourth-grader Mary Smith enjoyed "learning in an active way," she said.
Fourth-grader Yassie Buchanan said using movement and working in groups "wasn't like you were sitting at desks" and was an effective way to learn.
"We were learning, but we were having fun at the same time," added fourth-grader Arijana Alagic.