At , gym class became a little more than kickball and jumping rope this winter.
Students channeled their inner Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, with comprehensive lessons on dance, including hip-hop, tap and ballet. They even got to participate in a county dance festival and perform at a local college basketball game.
Physical education teacher Karen Webster said the inspiration for the dance units came from her college intern this winter, who is head of the dance team at UMBC.
Meghan Alokonis, a senior at the college, sheepishly admitted to Webster one day that her background was in dance, not traditional physical education.
Webster saw it as an opportunity.
“I said ‘well, we can do dance in PE ... dance is aerobic!’” she said. “So we came up with a game plan.”
Webster began by lobbying her principal for a couple of free dance assemblies featuring local hip-hop and ballet groups. Then, Webster and Alokonis worked to integrate dance into physical education classes, starting with lessons in the contra dance, a form of partnered folk dancing.
Students in all grades got lessons from Alokonis in hip-hop, jazz, tap and ballet, and she worked with Webster and other teachers to tie in lessons on music, history, geometry and even weather.
“I said, ‘By the end of this year, I want you all to be dancing,’” Webster said. “We became dancing fools at Waugh Chapel."
On Feb. 9, about 15 students from Waugh Chapel took part in a county dance festival at Chesapeake High School. Webster and Alokonis worked with the captain of the Arundel High School dance team on choreography.
Then on Feb. 15, six girls danced with Alokonis and the UMBC dance team during halftime of a basketball game.
“The kids loved it,” Webster said of the dance units. “And we had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.”
She said she will continue incorporating dance into her physical education classes, and has spoken to the head of the county's dance department to consider making it a more common thing at the elementary school level.
“I’m going to keep these routines year after year," she said. "I’d be a fool not to.”