Sonnesyn Elementary in New Hope Holds Virtual School Dance
Every year, Sonnesyn Elementary in New Hope holds a school dance as a way for students to show off the moves they learn in physical education class. Students in each grade level learn a different routine.
“We actually have a staff member who’s a DJ, and so he comes in and we do a mixture of the planned choreographed dances and some free dance for the kids to just have fun with each other,” said Leia Ward, principal of Sonnesyn Elementary. “It’s a great community-building event for our families.”
However, due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Sonnesyn had to cancel its annual dance, which was scheduled for April 3.
“Any time you lose an opportunity to come together as a community, people express disappointment,” Ward said.
But in today’s digital age, staff members at Sonnesyn figured out a way to host the school dance without everyone having to physically be present in a building. Sonnesyn’s Physical Education teacher, Kelly Heerschman, encouraged teachers to create videos of themselves performing the dances their students learned and posting them online.
“Our phy ed teacher sent out an email, and then an hour later she had loads of videos,” Ward said. “Not everybody did it, and that wasn’t an expectation, but we had at least one on every grade level of the dances ready to go to share with the kids.”
For example, all of the first grade teachers put on tutus and recorded themselves dancing the “Cha-Cha Slide.”
The school shared those videos with families through social media and encouraged the students to dance along at home.
Important to connect with students
Ward said the virtual dance party was an important gesture during this time when face-to-face interaction between students and teachers is relegated to computer screens.
“We have realized even more so than ever the importance of that connectedness,” Ward said. “We are social beings and any opportunity we’ve been able to put things out there for our families and for our kids, they are just clamoring for it.”
In the meantime, staff members at Sonnesyn continue to adjust to the new online learning model.
“We basically had to do what some companies and charter schools for online learning take years to develop,” said Ward. “The schools around the country have had to do that in eight days or less.”
As they continue working on the most effective way to deliver that educational experience to students, the virtual dance provided staff members the opportunity to stay connected and maintain that connection with their classrooms.
“Anything that a school can do to keep that human connection and that relationships going that is, in our mind, the most important thing right now,” Ward said.