A Boston-based non-profit called Gique runs a program called “Science Can Dance” that recruits students from diverse and underserved communities to learn about science concepts through dance. Each workshop pairs a hands-on lesson with unique choreography, teaching topics ranging from circuits to cancer biology. The diverse team of scientists and engineers leading the program serves as informal role models for the kids.
Ashli Polanco : We need to figure out a way to engage students more in the classroom to be fearless when they learn.
Ari : For Ashli Polanco, that way is dance. She runs a program that uses choreography to get kids from diverse and underserved communities in the Boston area excited about science. It’s called “Science Can Dance.”
Ashli : We already know that young kids love music, they love dance, especially hip hop music.
Danielle Olson : We really think of it as allowing students to remix the lesson with their own culture, creating an environment where being good at things like dance, music, body movement are an asset to learning about science and technology.
There are a lot of hard problems out in our world today, and engineering is what makes us move towards the future. Does that make sense?
Ari : Today’s workshop is about circuits.
Danielle : Ok, so LED stands for light-emitting diode.
Ashli : First we give a little mini-lesson on the science concept and provide a small hands-on activity so that the students feel like they’re actually making something that day.
Danielle : Ok, the longer leg, does it touch the positive side or the negative side? Positive!
When you have your LED glowing, I want you to hold it up in the air.
Ashli : And then we follow up with the dance segment.
Our dance is going to have three moving parts to it. Some people are going to act as the battery, some people are going to act as the light bulb, and then some people are going to act as the wires. Ok? But first I’m going to teach you all the choreography altogether. So let’s all stand up.
Danielle : We recruit scientists and engineers from the community who are also local hip hop dancers and choreographers, and we ask them to choreograph different dances that break down complex scientific concepts into different parts.
Ashli : Seven, eight. One, two, three and four, shift five and six, seven and eight.
Ari : The big goal here is to get these kids imagining. Dreaming up new solutions to the problems confronting our world and communities today, and also imagining new possibilities for their own futures.
Danielle : In spite of the fact that maybe a student is only a wire, or a student’s only a battery, they still have to have an understanding of how that all fits together. And we feel that the dance piece in terms of that collaborative aspect of repeating, fitting together, practicing—it reinforces the overall scientific concept and process.
Ashli : Circuits is just the theme for today—we’ve done polymerization, self-driving cars. There’s so many different things that you can teach through dance choreography.
Sweensey : Instead of just sitting down and listening to somebody teach something, you actually get to get up and move around.
John : Before, I felt nervous and I didn’t want to do it, but now I love science and I want to do it next time.
Ella : You can always learn new things by dancing at the same time as learning science.
Danielle : The lack of encouragement that a lot of students of color and young women face when pursuing technical studies—that can be really daunting to overcome. What we’re hoping is to fill that gap to really cater to learners that aren’t being served in the way they should be. So that we have access and equity for all of our youth, not just some of our youth.
Ari : And the result—a brighter future for all kids.
Ashli : I want you all to bow. Good job, everybody, today!
- Videography, Sound, Production, and Narration
- Ari Daniel
- Assistant Videography
- Sara Tewksbury
- Special Thanks
- Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2016
- (main image: "Science Can Dance" workshop)
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2016