East Durham Children’s Initiative

Jody Cassell and I are super excited to be bringing our dancing stories to this wonderful program in the Fall of 2018. East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) is a community-targeted educational initiative with the vision that all the children in a 120 block area of East Durham will graduate from high school. This is grassroots activism at its best! Now, thanks to American Dance Festival (ADF) and a grant from the Ivy Community Service Foundation of Cary, Inc we get to offer our skills to this amazing community.

For the last 5 years, Jody and I have been part of the ADF Community Outreach. We take our programs of interactive creative dance and storytelling to libraries, YMCAs, schools, and museums to promote dance as a joyful, imaginative and expansive activity for children. Jody teaches creative dance classes for “little ones” and their care providers as well as classes for children age 4-9 at ADF Studios. So our community workshops help spread the word about those classes and about the overall ADF season which peaks in Durham every summer. Last summer, ADF sent us for a workshop with the EDCI Stepping Stones summer program at the Maureen Joy Charter School. A preschool group of about a dozen with a lead teacher and several aides moved with us through BrainDance(c) and Jody’s story Where’s Leon?. We had such a great time with them! We really wanted to go back. Then ADF staff obtained a grant that allows for three more dancing story performances and two professional development sessions for teachers at EDCI in November/December 2018!

As I read through their Six Year Impact Study, it was clear that our dancing story programs are designed to fulfill aspects of EDCI’s mission. EDCI emphasizes early childhood intervention as a path to greater success in grade school and beyond. Jody Cassell trained as a Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts teaching artist and served as a Master Artist for over a decade. She has honed her skills in community-based dance and story in Atlanta and Baltimore school systems, and special residencies in school systems throughout NC. Her programs are designed to promote brain development and physical coordination, improve focus, engage somatic learning, and foster creative expression. The soundscapes for Jody’s stories center around pulses from brain wave states, which sonically enhance relaxation and focused engagement during dancing stories. The most important element in all is that we have fun!

Durham is such a rich place to live with so many wonderful and terrible things happening all at once. It is a joy to be engaged with locally focused organizations that are planting the seeds of creativity, respect and a high regard for the wide variety of learning styles that exist in the world.

I am grateful to have found myself at this particular intersection!

If, like me, you did not know about EDCI and the important service they provide, please check out their 6 year impact study: http://edci.org/en/about/impact

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