Science Square Dancing: Learning and Moving to the Music!

Six young people have their hands in a hexagon, with each person's hand grabbing onto the wrist of the person in front of them. A brightly colored floor is in the background.

This week, I have the pleasure of presenting my favorite lesson of the entire school year at the regional National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  That lesson is: Science Square Dancing!

I learned to square and contra dance as a high schooler and immediately fell in love with the quirky community, safe physical connection to others, and rich music and dance heritage that connects many generations of social dancers.  I learned to call in college and found that many of the skills I used as a dance caller applied in classroom teaching.  I began to wonder… could I combine the two worlds?

Turns out, it was a perfect match.  As a 6th grade science teacher, I used square dance moves as a platform for reviewing cell organelles and the families of the Periodic Table.  In addition to learning and reviewing these basic concepts, kids also practiced important skills:

  • Dancing with their peers, regardless of their relationship, and overcoming interpersonal conflict or discomfort
  • Practicing asking for consent before engaging physically with someone, and learning to say and hear “no”
  • Being willing to make mistakes publically and look a little bit foolish – all in the name of science!

Attached are the handout and slide deck I made for my presentation, which led the group through the process of teaching square dancing to a class for the first time.  We did the Periodic Table lesson as an example, but square dance moves can easily be applied to any number of content areas – the possibilities are endless!  The best candidates have a large number of important vocabulary words that are meaningfully different from one another in their function.

Six young people are holding hands in a circle in a colorful science classroom.

Here is a blank template with the Periodic Table samples as a reference for thinking through your own possible curricular ties – be sure to share them back so that others can use them in their own dancing adventures!

The slide deck and handouts include links to videos where appropriate.  More information about square and contra dance moves are available online – two examples that work well for my brain are here & over here.

You can also find a dance near you and practice on your own!  The best way to learn is by doing and practicing the moves yourself – and bring a friend along for the fun.  Who knows where square dancing will go next?


One thought on “Science Square Dancing: Learning and Moving to the Music!

  1. Cannot wait for our chemistry unit after attending your session at the Milwaukee, WI NSTA Conference. I know that the students are going to thoroughly enjoy this activity. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t enjoy square dancing!


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