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The Kinetic Energy touring company takes an arts-based approach to learning

This is an excerpt from Public Scholarship in Dance by Lynnette Overby.

Kinetic Energy Touring Company

Type of Project


Choreography and Performance

Touring company


Lynnette Young Overby

University Partner

Michigan State University department of theatre

Community Partners

Elementary schools throughout the state of Michigan

Description of Project

The first presentation, titled Kinetic Energy, focuses on the concepts of kinetic and potential energy, gravity, inertia, and friction. The program is based on the Michigan Science Standards and Objectives for elementary school students: motion of objects. This standard requires all students to be able to describe and explain how and why things move as they do, demonstrate and explain how humans control the motion of objects, and relate motion to energy and energy conversions. The performance group was sponsored by the department of theatre. Brochures describing the production were mailed to elementary schools throughout Michigan. Each school paid a small fee for the 45-minute production. The funds were used for costumes, the portable set, and stipends for the performers. The first Kinetic Energy program took the form of a story, in which a science student returns to his old elementary school to teach the children about physical science. But before she can begin, an alien from another planet crashes in the hallway of the school. The alien needs to understand the language of motion so that he can take this knowledge back to his planet. So, with help from the students and with the physical science concepts demonstrated by the streaks of energy (university student performers), the alien is able to learn the language of motion. The program opened with the chant "Motion of Objects Groove" (figure 3.2), which introduced students to the concepts included in the presentation. At the conclusion of the program, a human spaceship is constructed by the elementary school children to blast the alien into space. Table 3.6 presents details on the project in the context of Kolb's experiential learning model.

"Motions of Objects Groove," a poem by Paulina Zionts.

The Kinetic Energy touring company took an arts-based approach to learning. The 45-minute productions integrated the Michigan educational standards for a specific curricular area with dance and drama. Although the program was shared with students in grades K through 5, the target for the content was fourth- and fifth-graders. Through choreography and skits, the curricular content was transformed into entertaining, educational, and accessible knowledge for K-5 students. The programs included Kinetic Energy, a dance and drama production based on motion of objects; Water Works: Tales of the Hydrosphere, based on many aspects of water; Spark and Pop: The Adventures of Light and Sound, based on light and sound content; and The Kaleidoscope of Life, based on living things including biomes and pollution. The tours took place from 1999 to 2007.


Assessments varied with each project; however, all included a postperformance evaluation by the classroom teachers and principal. Other assessments included a survey of fourth- and fifth-grade students (the target group for the presentations) to determine the program's impact on their knowledge of scientific concepts. Students were also given the opportunity to write or draw pictures about their favorite part of the performances.

Evaluations confirmed that students gained knowledge of the specific science concepts introduced through this theatrical method. Information about the impact of this program was also submitted each year to the associate provost for engagement. The data included numbers of students, schools, and teachers and numbers of presentations and publications. Feedback from the associate provost was positive and encouraging.

Learn more about Public Scholarship in Dance.

More Excerpts From Public Scholarship in Dance