Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability


Loyola Dance Students Teach Science through Movement

Loyola Dance Students Teach Science through Movement

Peirce Elementary School students listen to IES Dean Nancy Tuchman.

In December, fourth-grade students from Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies visited the Institute of Environmental Sustainability to show off their scientific knowledge of Photosynthesis, nuclear fusion and the chemical process that turns vegetable oil into Biodiesel. The catch? They showcased their knowledge through dance. The LUC Dance Program has made it part of its mission to engage on social justice issues and build community partnerships through efforts like their dance program with Pierce Elementary School.

IES sat down with Senior Lecturer of Dance Amy Wilkinson to discuss this initiative a little more.

Q: What’s the idea behind this performance?

A: I conceived this project as a way to continue the Dance Program's commitment to build community partnerships, explore interdisciplinary work, and to engage on social justice issues. My goals are to equip our dancers with the pedagogical knowledge and skills to work with diverse student populations. I want our dancers to inspire the next generation of dancers to think of themselves as artist activists who can effect change in a world in flux and in need of peace.

Q: What did the students do? How long have you worked with them?

A: The structure of the project involved a group of LUC dance pedagogy students working with 30 Peirce Elementary School fourth graders weekly since the beginning of the fall semester. We chose climate change related subjects culled from the online textbook Healing Earth (How biodiesel is made, photosynthesis, nuclear fusion, etc.) and Loyola’s dancers helped the Peirce students learn those concepts by translating them into movement. Ultimately, I would like to use the format of this project to develop an interactive website that elementary students and instructors could utilize to engage on climate change through work in the arts. 

Q: What are the elementary students getting out of this?

A: The Peirce students worked with college dance instructors who have empowered them with the ability to author their own understanding of the world through movement. They’ve gained knowledge that connects dance concepts such as time, space, and effort with science concepts related to climate change. They also visited IES on a field trip where they met with Dr. Nancy Tuchman, the founding dean of the Institute.  By visiting IES, they’ve gained a deeper understanding of the work that goes into environmental sustainability and their work will be preserved on film and presented to a larger audience through various channels. 

Q: How did this partnership start?

A: Three years ago I reached out to the director of the Peirce dance program, Marissa Moritz, to see if she would be willing to allow LUC dance pedagogy students to gain teaching experience by visiting her classes and working with her students. We've been working with Peirce ever since and Marissa has been an enthusiastic partner providing invaluable insights into the particulars of teaching dance in a CPS context. 

To see  pictures of the Peirce Elementary School dance performances, go here.