Fostering a Sense of Community among Middle-Years Students Through Song and Dance Practices

  • Author / Creator
    Madhur, Daya K
  • The arts force us out of our comfort zones, they open our minds to discovery, and allow us to confront assumptions and prejudices. Alongside defined music, sound intertwines us with our surroundings, both consciously and unconsciously, serving as the soundtrack to our lives. But what happens when we actively engage with our surroundings and use the world around us as inspiration for art? Embracing the teachings of the Circle of Courage along with an innovative approach to the elementary Fine Arts and Practical Applied Arts curricular areas, this ethnographic field project looks to encourage a sense of community and group cohesion among middle-years youth within a Regina, Saskatchewan context. Conducted within a community school, many student participants in this project exemplified characteristics of at-risk youth, including emotional or behavioral problems, low academic performance, truancy, and a disconnection from the school environment. By participating in an inquiry-based learning project, students explored an interdisciplinary course engaging in all four fine arts strands, as well as speaking to the themes of orality. At the beginning of the course, the students were given the metaphor to think of themselves as a stars within the night sky, reflecting on their communities as an individual constellation. These sentiments were translated to a visual art piece which initiated our experience together. Inspired by positive points of contact students created compositions through found sounds, body percussion, and polyrhythms, actively engaging with sounds of communities and thinking critically of places of belonging. Visual art mapping strategies allowed a means to monitor student growth, documented the intangibility of relationships, and transformed as the students developed a sense of cohesion. Music served as the reason for students to work together and collaborate, placing aside their differences or interpersonal concerns. Dance and drama allowed students to explore their oral narrative, expressing themselves where words often fall short. Finally, the percussive nature of the human breath served as a link, unifying the compositions together and reminding us of our commonalities. This project has allowed at-risk youth a means of empowerment by providing students with the tools for self-expression. Guiding the students through exercises in deep listening and mindfulness has encouraged individuals to aurally recognize their environments being aware of their surroundings with the potential for empathy and belonging. Through understanding the value of their oral narrative students were able to recognize the power of their voice. Within the Prairie provinces there is much work that needs to be done addressing the social dynamics found within our school systems as well as our social and personal situations. This project has allowed participants to focus on similarities rather than differences and is a successful example of using arts-based methods to foster a sense of community. Supplemental files to this thesis can be found at

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Byl, Julia (Music)
    • Zivkovic, Marko (Anthropology)