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Discover HCPSS’ Newest Middle School Electives: Theatre and Dance

January 9th, 2023

BBMS dance teacher demonstates a dance move to her class
BBMS dance teacher Christen Douglass demonstrates a dance movement for her class.

Howard County middle school students have more in-school opportunities to explore the fine arts than ever before.

Over the past several years, HCPSS has implemented a quarter-long theatre elective for sixth-grade students; full-year theatre electives for seventh- and eighth-grade students; and a year-long dance elective. Beginning in fall 2023, HCPSS will launch another year-long dance elective, enabling students who took the first dance elective to advance to a higher level and position themselves to take Dance II in high school.

Like all of HCPSS’ middle school fine arts classes, the new classes are designed to support and encourage student voice and well-being as well as develop technical skills and conceptual awareness and understanding that can be used within the fine arts and beyond, says HCPSS Fine Arts Coordinator Gino Molfino.

As he notes, “Our ultimate goal is to instill the behaviors and dispositions that translate beyond the fine arts classroom, such as inquiry and innovation, perseverance, collaboration and communication, while supporting the development of a students skills, knowledge and understanding. These are the skills and behaviors that are vital to support all individuals throughout their lives.”

Below are highlights about both the theatre and dance courses, as well as thoughts from teachers and current students on why these electives should be on students’ radars as they register for next year’s classes.

Male and female PMS students taking theatre.
Students practice their acting skills during their theatre class at Patapsco Middle School (PMS).

Theatre Arts Grade 6:

Course highlights:
Students create a puppet and write their own puppet show.

Why teachers recommend it:
“Theatre Arts Grade 6 provides opportunities for students to get a taste of what it is like to be a theatre artist through exciting acting, improvising and designing activities.” – Kathryn Carlsen, HCPSS Lead Theatre teacher, Director of Theatre Arts, Mt. Hebron High School

Why students say it’s great:
“I have always struggled with my confidence, but theater class has helped me build up my confidence.” – Caroline, 6th grade

“Theatre is a fun way to be creative.” – Emily, 6th grade

Two female students laughing in their PMS theatre class.

Theatre Arts A:

Course highlights:
Students learn improvisation games and put on an improv show.

Why teachers recommend it:
“Theatre Arts A provides students collaborative experiences and the opportunity to study acting techniques. Students build confidence, stimulate imagination and role-play with an emphasis on believability and sensory awareness.” – Kathryn Carlsen, HCPSS Lead Theatre teacher, Director of Theatre Arts, Mt. Hebron High School

Why students say it’s great:
“Learning is implemented in more fun ways through activities and games. “ – Anjali, 8th grade

“We are able to get up and move around every day. It is super nice to not just stare at your computer all class and get a break from [academics]. I love how many games we play that may just seem like fun but are really helping us to become better at acting.” – Brooke, 8th grade

“Theatre grows my confidence and makes me feel welcome.” – Aila, 7th grade

“Theatre class has a very diverse crowd of students. Everyone has a different set of hobbies. It has athletes, dreamers, quiet people, etc. But no matter where you’re from or who you are, everyone can just get along and have fun.” – Aiden, 8th grade

Group of PMS students in a theatre class.
PMS students work on public speaking during their theatre class.

Theatre Arts B:

Course highlights:
Students write and perform original one-act plays.

Why teachers recommend it:
Theatre Arts B expands on acting techniques, design skills, as well as introduces playwriting techniques so students have the tools to create their own piece from page to stage—from writing the script, rehearsing, designing, and performing in front of an audience! – Kathryn Carlsen, HCPSS Lead Theatre teacher, Director of Theatre Arts, Mt. Hebron High School

Why students say it’s great:
“Theatre is great because it means being more on your feet, more talking, [and] more working with peers.” – Quinn, 8th grade

“I enjoy the theatre games and working with others and seeing how they act.” – Wyatt, 8th grade

Group of BBMS students taking dance at BBMS.
BBMS students rehearse a choreographed piece during their dance elective.

Dance A:

Course highlights:
Students learn and perform a variety of dance styles, including creative movement, jazz, modern, ballet and cultural/ethnic dance. They also have opportunities to create and perform their own original choreography.

Why teachers recommend it:
“Dance opens doors for students to communicate ideas and emotions when words simply do not suffice. In dance, students become a part of a strong dance community where, in addition to learning strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, control, and creativity, they also learn teamwork, perseverance, problem solving, and confidence, all while having fun.” – Holli Tucci, HCPSS Lead Dance teacher, Dance Director, Wilde Lake High School

“Dance provides a safe and creative space where students can express themselves. We challenge the body, mind, and soul through movement. Students who struggle in other classes often excel in our class by learning different concepts through movement. The ambition, teamwork, determination and discipline learned through dance translates into strong life skills that students need to be successful in any goal they set to achieve.” – Christen Douglass, Dance educator, Thomas Viaduct and Bonnie Branch Middle Schools

Why students say it’s great:
“The thing that I enjoy most is being able to create and learn dance routines and also getting the option to perform them. This dance class is different from the other dance classes I take outside of school because unlike my other dance class outside of school in this class, you get a grade and learn different styles of dance rather than focusing on one style of dance every class.” – Carmen, 8th grade

“If you want to take a class that will improve your flexibility, your self-esteem and benefit your health, take dance! You might even find a new way to express yourself and make new friends along the way.” – Ella, 7th grade

Female students stand at the ballet barre during their BBMS dance class.

“I enjoy learning new moves and dances. I enjoy being with my friends and working together with them.” Stacey, 8th grade

“You don’t have to be good at [dance]. You can start anytime and get better. Dance is a sport where you can freely express your feelings!” – Ashley, 8th grade

“You should take this class because you won’t feel judged and everyone is supportive”
– Ciara, 7th Grade

“The amount of friends and bonds I’ve made are insane. And the activities we do are even more fun” – Isla, 7th grade

Female student being held up by classmates in BBMS dance class.

Dance B (Coming Fall 2023):

Course highlights and why teachers recommend it:
“We are super excited to expand the middle school Dance curriculum to include Dance B next year! Dance B is open to current 7th graders who have completed Dance A. Dance B is a continuation of the Dance A curriculum; it will strengthen and further dancers’ knowledge of dance technique, dance history, and concepts, while challenging dancers to think and move more creatively.” – Jennifer Hennessie, Dance educator, Murray Hill and Lime Kiln Middle Schools

“Dance B will provide students with a deeper understanding of the concepts presented in Dance A. New concepts, additional notable choreographers and different cultural dances will be introduced while increasing students’ technical skills. Students will be well-prepared for high school dance after taking Dance A and B.” – Christen Douglass, Dance educator, Thomas Viaduct and Bonnie Branch middle schools