This is a guest blog from Nicole LaBonde, Executive Director of the Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective
It’s Back-to-School time already! This has been a very exciting summer for Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective. IPDC held our first international camp in Limbe, Haiti. We worked with over 100 children, all refugees from devastated Port-au-Prince. But, that gets to be a topic for another post! This post will focus on our work State-side, with children in New Orleans and Philadelphia.
IPDC provides free arts camps to children who have experienced a natural and/or socio-economic disasters. We specifically provide learning experiences for low-income children during school breaks. Summer is a prime time for fun and relaxation for most students. But for the nation’s most vulnerable students, summer often means a learning loss. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University by Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson in 2007 “Summer learning shortfall experienced by low-income children over the elementary grades has consequences that reverberate throughout children’s schooling, and can impact whether a child ultimately earns a high school diploma and continues on to college.” The National Education Association states, “Test score gaps often lead to longer-term gaps, including … the kinds of jobs students secure as adults.”
Our programs use dance, visual arts, music, theater and literary arts to refresh education concepts such as fractions and reading comprehension, and life skills such as teamwork and discipline. For students not engaged in a summer program, these elements are critical to a positive school transition.
In New Orleans and Philadelphia, the arts are at risk or eliminated in many schools. Many campers experience an art form for the first, and possibly only, time! At IPDC camps, children participate in multiple genres of dance and movement practices. They explore music and theater. Children have daily visual arts and literary arts experiences.
IPDC campers write and read regularly, maintaining (and sometimes increasing!) literacy skills built during the school year. Language arts lessons, such as sentence structure, point of view, and letter writing, are incorporated into each journal session. Campers are encouraged to share what they have written at both the writing time and performance. These opportunities develop students’ confidence and joy in writing and reading.
Being an artist is, essentially, creating something out of nothing. A dancer has just her body. A musician has an odd combination of wood and metal. A writer starts with a blank piece of paper. The artist views the emptiness and oddness and sees inspiration and potential– dreams, waiting to be realized. The children IPDC serves have dreams- a future, jobs, families, travel. IPDC arts camps encourage the educational and life skills they need to realize those dreams.
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