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Hip for science to hop

Sarah French on a dance company's work with a school to make a science CD-Rom

The idea of combining science and contemporary dance was developed by Chris Thompson, director of learning and access at The Place, and Jane Fulford, former headteacher at Winton Primary in Islington, a school with children speaking 35 languages.

Chris Thompson says: "It started as a dance and language project because the school found language difficulties were getting in the way of scientific learning while poetry often incorporates concepts of science.

Later we decided to focus on science at key stage 2 and how it could be taught through dance."

Dancer Lucy Moelwyn-Hughes found translating science into physical moves relatively straightforward: "When we started we introduced dance across more than one subject but we discovered that science lent itself most easily to dance. At key stage 2 the children have to be able to understand concepts like forces, action, and reaction, how the body moves and grows, what bones do, what's digestion and light and shadow. It was quite easy to interpret these ideas into physical movements."

For example, the difference between the north and south poles of a magnet is explained by asking the children to reach up and shake their hands in the air for north and bend down to their feet for south, or to jump in a wide shape to demonstrate repulsion and bring their knees and elbows together for attraction. They were shown one move and asked to devise three more to explain each concept. As well as being fun, combining learning with dance appeared to have particular benefits for kinaesthetic and physical learners.

After two years on the project at Islington, The Place team joined forces with YDance which had the know-how to turn what The Place had been doing into a CD-Rom. It covers three areas of science: how the body works; light and shadow; and springs and magnets. Games, activities, lesson plans, raps and video of the Islington pupils explain concepts in each topic.

Rather than tap and ballet, the children learn hip hop, street dance and capoeira, based on a South American non-contact marshal art. YDance artistic director Andy Howitt says: "SciencePhysical makes it possible to combine science and dance in fun and innovative ways. The CD-Rom is easy to use. You don't have to be a computer genius, nor do you have to know much about dance, but we do encourage teachers to be involved in the lesson by joining in."

* Science-Physical CD-Rom pound;50 plus VAT and pound;2.50 pp from YDance, Science-Physical, Learning and Access, The Place, 17 Dukes Road, London WC1H 9PY Email: learning@theplace.org.ukvia www.ydance.org

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