Seth Boyden Elementary Demonstration School has received an Artists in Education grant for $10,000 from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for an artist-in-residence program for the 2020-21 school year.
The AIE grant will bring an expert in African-American step dancing to Seth Boyden. The artist will work primarily with the school’s four third-grade classes, teaching fundamental step moves as well as the basic historical and cultural background of the art form. The lessons will dovetail with the geography and civics units of the third-grade curriculum.
The resident artist will also meet with the third-grade faculty and the art, music, and physical education teachers at Seth Boyden to brainstorm about ways to incorporate step and other movement into their pedagogy more broadly.
The Columbia High School Infinite Step Team will play an important role in the program. In addition to performing a step assembly for all grades at Seth Boyden, members of this squad – some of whom are Seth Boyden alumnae – will provide mentoring to the third-grade students.
As the program’s culminating project, the third-graders and the resident artist will choreograph a step number that will become the Seth Boyden School Spirit Dance, a legacy to be passed down to future classes.
Since stepping has deep roots in African-American and African culture, the art form is part of the cultural heritage of many Seth Boyden students, more than half of whom are African-American, many of them second-generation African or Afro-Caribbean.
Principal Shannon Glander, Assistant Principal Sheila Murphy, and third-grade teacher Rosemary Connell formed part of the Steering Committee for the grant, as did Seth Boyden PTA President Elizabeth Leonard Evangelista and PTA Assemblies Coordinator Susanna Einstein. Pending funding and any necessary pandemic-related modifications, the Seth Boyden step residency will begin in or shortly after November.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to look forward to,” Principal Glander said. PTA President Evangelista echoed the sentiment. “This is an enormous bright spot for all of us: our school, faculty, and students!”
The Artists in Education Residency Grant Program, now in its forty-eighth year, is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Young Audiences Arts for Learning Network of New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania, in partnership with regional New Jersey arts organizations, including Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus, Count Basie Center for the Arts, and Morris Arts.