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Dance... To Learn

Maria Curiale-West believes dance can be more than just the sum of its movements.

Patrick Sullivan - March 3rd, 2014  

With the right approach, dance can help children learn math and language.

She creates lessons for the Interlochen-based curriculum company Mother Goose Times for pre-schoolers to do just that – learn how to count and read using songs and specific movements.

“I think it’s such an untapped tool for teaching children that age,” Curiale-West said. “It’s just so natural for them to want to move.”

CURRICULUM-MAKER BORN

After graduating from college and dancing professionally for seven years, the native New Yorker met her future husband at a gig in Mackinaw City. His northern Michigan roots helped them choose Traverse City as their new hometown.

She heard about the job at Mother Goose Times, a 30-year-old company that ships research-based preschool curriculae to subscribers in the U.S. and overseas, and found it matched her skills and interests.

Her lessons, which are shipped to subscribers on a monthly basis, incorporate 21 basic moves designed to ignite major muscle groups, balance, and strength.

A new issue of “Dance ‘n Beats,” the book of lessons, is sent out to around 200 daycare centers and parents each month; Curiale-West said she’s gotten great feedback so far.

“We’ve been getting really cute videos from parents and day care centers showing us the kids doing all of the dances,” she said.

DANCES AROUND HER LIVING ROOM

In addition to developing dance curriculae, Curiale-West is in grad school studying elementary education, while teaching two classes a week at Dance Arts Academy.

Curiale-West says she believes dance programs that also teach basic subjects should be incorporated into everyday elementary school instruction.

“People are using it as a dance program,” she said. “They’re not teaching the core subjects, so that’s really where I am going with it.”

Each month, Mother Goose commissions a new set of lessons with 12 original songs. Curiale-West writes the lessons and invents the dances.

“I dance around my living room,” she said. “My husband thinks I’m nuts.”

 
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