By Toan P. Do
City on a Hill Press Reporter

In a yellow-hued dance studio, behind the sounds of soft footsteps and echoing voices, UC Santa Cruz dance lecturer Tandy Beal’s students discuss the best ways of sparking imagination and creativity from the third-graders that they mentor.

“It’s such an amazing generational project,” Beal said. “I think I’m teaching through these guys.”

Beal teaches Arts Education in the Community, a Porter course that she considers her way to give back to the community.

Every Wednesday morning this quarter, Beal’s students have been visiting third-grade classes of Del Mar and DeLaveaga Elementary Schools, teaching the classes about the dance traditions of selected countries.

Beal’s class, which is composed of a variety of students who come from many different majors, is broken up into nine small groups, each of which has been assigned a country to teach about.

The selected countries are the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Greece, Hawaii, India, Senegal and Spain.

“I chose the countries because they are all ones that have very strong dance traditions,” Beal said. “I wanted very much that [the children] feel the dance tradition coming through.”

Near the end of the quarter, the student leaders and their third-graders will perform a dance show on the stage of Porter Dining Hall to showcase the different dances and cultures that the children have learned about.

Working with the children from Del Mar and DeLaveaga has been extremely rewarding, said third-year theater arts major Crystal Smith.

“It’s enhancing their creativity and imagination,” Smith said. “I think that is one of my goals: for them to not be afraid to express themselves, no matter what age they are at, and have some kind of voice within their small community of the classroom.”

Smith, along with all her classmates, has had the opportunity to step into the shoes of teachers and educators. They plan out their classes ahead of time and send their plans to Beal for feedback. During Friday classes, they practice choreographing the dances that they will teach their students, and on Wednesdays, they get 40 minutes to put their plans to work in the classroom.

“During our first week I was a little skeptical about how we were going to get the kids to really be involved and be really energetic,” first-year Morgan Cooper said. “I think at first at least a quarter of the class was really shy and it seemed like almost half of them didn’t even want to participate. But now everybody is into it and the teachers are really enthusiastic and really supportive.”

First-year Daniella Schepps recalls the first day she met with her third-graders and one particular challenge she faced.

“On the first day we had this one kid,” Schepps said. “He was crazy, his name was Javier, and he wanted to do the opposite of everything we wanted him to do. Now he’s the best kid in the class, and it’s so funny, because every time we do ‘follow the leader,’ he’s right behind us. He has himself totally invested in the class now.”

Beal’s enthusiasm to enrich children’s lives has carried through to her students. Her class has taken on a generational phenomenon, and she feels she is teaching through the actions of her students.

“I feel like it’s going incredibly well,” Beal said. “I feel that as money is cut from the arts in the schools, this is one way for me to give back to our community and keep developing. Hopefully there will be people from this class who will want to continue in teaching.”

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