Thursday, May 11, 2017

Math and Movement

Seventeen Girl Scouts spent Sunday afternoon learning about movement and math during a workshop hosted by Young Audiences – Arts for Learning- Virginia at A Place for Girls, the Girl Scout regional program center in Chesapeake. Sheena Jeffers, arts integration director for Young Audiences, led the workshop to teach girls about math and healthy living through modern dance.

Jeffers led the girls in a warm up activity, and explained to them that they could use the same warm up routine before any physical activity, from a soccer game to a hike with their Girl Scout troop. She then shared with the girls how math concepts are integrated in dance in a variety of ways.

“I didn’t always love math class in school,” Jeffers shared. “But I really love dance, and the deeper I got into dance, the more ways I saw that math is hidden in dance. Now I like to teach others about how math can be fun.”

Jeffers taught the girls about some fundamentals of dance, including levels, speed and shapes. She then introduced the girls to their first mathematical concept of the day— geometric reflection. Girls paired up and mirrored each other’s movements, trying to create the same shapes with their partners across from them. Their challenge was to incorporate the fundamentals of dance that they had just learned into their movements. For this activity, Jeffers also talked to them about symmetry and asymmetry.

Jeffers then used pivot turns to go over fractions, degrees and percentages. The girls made quarter turns, half turns or full turns based on the command from Jeffers—make a 360 degree turn or turn 50 percent of the way around. They also went over acute, right and obtuse angles using their legs to make different angles. Then, the girls broke into small groups and choreographed at 32-count dance incorporating everything they had gone over that day.

Next on the agenda, Jeffers talked to the girls about healthy living and calories. Jeffers shared that an hour of dance, which they had just completed, burns about 350 calories. The girls then mixed their own trail mix to fuel their bodies with the same amount of energy they had just burned. Jeffers showed the girls how to read the calorie about on the nutrition label and calculate the calories they were adding to their trail mix. After enjoying their snacks, Jeffers and the girls worked creating more choreography that included math concepts.

Studies have shown that girls lose interest in math and science during middle school and that STEM interest is low for girls, compared to boys. According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, much of the research on this topic has focused on representation of girls and women in these fields, primarily on the obstacles preventing more girls and women from entering them. Girl Scouts is shifting the focus toward understanding and developing solutions for what works for girls who show interest and engage in the fields of STEM. By collaborating with organizations, such as Young Audiences – Arts for Learning- Virginia, Girl Scouts can provide opportunities for girls to learn about how to lead healthy lives and engage in activities to explore the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Girl Scouts also offers nearly 40 badges for girls to earn through STEM activities, including Money Manager and Home Scientist.

Through exposure and education, both formal and informal, Girl Scouts and their partners in the community will send the message to girls that STEM careers can fulfill their desires to solve problems and make the world a better place.