Students learn about mapping, environment through dance

Green Map • Online access allows anyone to see shops, parks and transit that helps the planet.
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Dance, geography and the environment seem an unlikely combination, but don't tell that to students at Weber State University.

Weber students found that kids love to move, teachers love to teach and geography students love to map, so combining the activities seemed like the perfect and unique way to get involved in the Green Map system.

Repertory Dance Theatre, Weber State University's Moving Company and the geography department joined 800 other communities in 60 countries to create and choreograph an environmental Green Map for residents of Ogden. The Green Map system — which marks places such as public transit stops, secondhand stores and environmentally minded businesses — was developed in 1995 as a means of encouraging participation in sustainable community development around the world.

Weber State took the system a step further and added dance as a means of sharing knowledge. Ogden is the first city to combine its Green Map with dance.

The geography department worked to identify local sustainable businesses and map them online. The dance department used the information from the map to develop dance performances and spread the word encouraging a more sustainable life.

"Just about anything can be taught through dance. Because children learn through kinetics, dance is an excellent format to reinforce what they are learning," said Joanne Lawrence, professor of dance at WSU.

Lawrence worked with Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City to develop the program.

Each year, Weber State does an outreach program in the community. This year, it decided to use the green map project. Lawrence and her students took the mapping and dance project to schools in Ogden, where the students learned dances about water, plants and animal life that were represented by icons on the map.

Dancers from Weber State University performed at schools during assemblies. They worked closely with fourth- and sixth-graders at Horace Mann Elementary twice a week for 10 weeks, teaching them mapping and dance.

Students would re-create a biome, such as the high desert, by holding poses that represented rocks, cactus and sage while other students would move as animals through the dancescape, Lawrence said.

Geography majors would help the children identify places they thought were important to map, and they would display their creations in the classroom.

Students at Horace Mann were given a pre-test and a post-test in geography, and teachers said the results were positive.

"We plan to do more in-depth assessment as to how learning is increased through dancing," Lawrence said.

Ashley Remkes, a fourth-grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary, said the dance went "really well."

"We were talking about animals and their environment," Remkes said. "It helped them understand dance and the subject we were studying."

Jordan Porter, a senior majoring in geography, was responsible for the computer aspect of the project. Porter enjoyed getting outside his box and interacting with other departments. "Working with the eccentric dance students was a big and welcomed change from the typical science students I am used to encountering," Porter said. "Their open spirits made for a very fun and rewarding project."