I have recently come across several programs that bring dance into schools. They have caught my attention because they focus on building self-esteem and addressing conflict, two issues that have arisen repeatedly in our study of court-involved youth.
Move This World http://movethisworld.org/ is a nonprofit that “engages students Pre-K—12, educators, administrators, families, and corporate leaders in movement-based activities that promote empathy, mediation skills, and conflict transformation.”
While in Philadelphia recently a program there called Dancing with the Students http://www.dancingwiththestudents.com/ was featured in the news. This program develops “positive self-esteem, proper manners, and respect for others” (the use of the phrase proper manners is worthy of a separate critique).
This program was in part inspired by a NYC-based dance program http://www.dancingclassrooms.com/ that works to “build confidence” and “cultivate essential life skills in children through the practice of social dance.”
What all of these programs have in common is the use of a physical, movement-based approach to engage young people and build their confidence and relational skills, all things that are noticeably lacking in classrooms. I would argue that court-involved youth might benefit disproportionately from these types of programs if they are more likely to struggle with a purely academic curriculum, not be in home environments where confidence and relational skills are nurtured, and be often faced with conflict.