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Dance to Learn: Education Beyond a Desk

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

By Cherrelle Druppers and Francis Odhiambo

For this guest blog, we are joined by Cherrelle Druppers and Francula Odhiambo from ChezaCheza Dance. We were lucky to have them join us at our retreat in May. ChezaCheza empowers youth in underprivileged neighborhoods through dance. Their classes incorporate life skills and capacity building in order to empower the children within the community and create a safe and creative space where children can express themselves.

At ChezaCheza, we believe that dance and movement can be an excellent tool for learning so when Metis asked us to create an alternative learning experience for their Fellows, we used what we do best, dance! Usually, we work with young children and adolescent, providing life skills education through dance. We got nervous and thought hard about which approach to take with these adults. Should we change our curriculum? What music should we use? Can they even dance? We decided to shake it all off and do what we know: creating a safe, fun, and an interactive environment to dance.

As the class began, we explained who we were and what we do. Immediately some people got excited, while doubt covered other faces. In some whispers you could hear, “But I can’t dance”. As the sweet beats of the Kenyan afro music started playing, you could see shoulders relax and bodies swinging side to side. “Oh, this is not so hard after all” you could hear one Fellow say. Familiarity with the music and moves started to grow, and people felt comfortable enough to express themselves through movement. We asked everybody how they felt and not to tell us, but show it in a move. Every move, by every fellow, showed a unique expression of how that person was feeling. You felt the doubt and reservations people initially had just melted away, and a feeling of complete joy started to arise. Even a short dance routine did not seem to scare anyone any more, and there was an absolute focus on getting the steps right as a group. A performance at the end created a sense of accomplishment and community, with fellows cheering and applauding for the moves of their peers.

Most importantly, we did a debrief and asked the Fellows what they learned from this experience. They told us they felt safe, creative, and challenged. It showed that sitting behind a desk is not the only way to learn something. They saw that you could learn by doing, using body language to communicate, and lead by example. So, is there a difference between teaching adults and teaching children? Well, adults might have more reservations and constraints at learning something new than children. However, if you create a learning environment where people feel safe, encouraged, accepted, and that mistakes are part of the learning process, then you see that adults are just big children longing for the same feeling of safety and security. So if we as adults want this, why not create such environments for the children we work with every day?

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