In this unit Dance and Environmental Education, students learn how to use the elements of dance and composition to convey a message about an environmental issue. Students learn about one environmental issue through research and, in small groups, create a dance piece that advocates for change and action.  

Students begin to understand and become aware of the various issues that we as a population are faced with, and through the use of an environmental artifact or source as inspiration, generate movements individually and in small groups.

The unit could take anywhere from, 2-3 weeks to complete and should ideally be taught in the fall or spring as the site specific work calls for students to be outside.


In this unit, teachers and students explore the environment through dance composition and use sources as inspiration for choreography. Students will be immersed in the environment through real artifacts from nature which they will use as stimulus for a solo composition. The solo composition will help students to generate movement vocabulary and will assist students in recognizing the similarities between dance and the environment.  

Students will be presented with a quote from David Suzuki, who advocates for change in the environment and expresses his fear of its current state. In small groups, students will use their solo composition to create a juxtaposition of nature's beauty and the environmental concerns which we are currently facing.

In small groups, students will brainstorm a variety of environmental issues and will individually choose an artifact/source that will help them to generate movement vocabulary. Students will then use this vocabulary and work together in small groups to create a piece that is based on one environmental theme and their artifact/source material.  

The class will work on their compositions, keeping in mind that the big idea is to convey the environmental issue through the use of the elements of dance and the tools and forms of composition.  

Overall Expectations

A1. The Creative Process:use the creative process, the elements of dance (body, space, time, energy, and relationship), and a variety of sources to develop movement vocabulary;

A2. Choreography and Composition:combine the elements of dance in a variety of ways in composing individual and ensemble dance creations;

A4. Performance: apply dance presentation skills in a variety of contexts and performances.

B1. Critical Analysis Process: use the critical analysis process to reflect on and evaluate their own and others’ dance works and activities;

C2. Contexts and Influences: demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural, and historical origins and development of dance forms, including their influence on each other and on society;

C3. Responsible Practices: demonstrate an understanding of safe, ethical, and responsible personal and interpersonal practices in dance activities.

Unit Guiding Questions

How is dance similar to nature?

How can dance convey a message about an environmental issue and advocate for change and action?

Lesson Guiding Questions

Lesson 1- Feeling Natures Connection

What characteristics do dance and nature have in common?
How can the environment be embodied and portrayed through the use of movement and dance?
How can artists use nature for choreographic inspiration?  

Lesson 2- Exploring an Environmental Issue 

How can we use our knowledge of Dance to address social issues?

Lesson 3- Using Source Material for Inspiration

How can environmental sources be used as a stimulus for choreography?
How can the message and meaning of choreography be enhanced by using the elements of dance and through the use of compositional tools and structures?

Lesson 4- Site Specific Dance

How does site specific dance add meaning and alter the concept of the piece?
Why would an artist choose to create a piece in a site other than the studio?
How does feedback help to improve movement phrases?

Lesson 5- Expression and Vision

How can dance advocate for environmental change?
Through reflection of the choreographic process, how can the group further their understanding of composition and why is it necessary to reflect on this?
How can the observation and critical analysis of the environmental pieces create change and action in someone?


Assessment and Evaluation: How will students demonstrate their learning?

Assessment of learning

Culminating Performance Activity

A rubric will be used to assess the environmental dance piece and source/artifact visual component
Assessment for Learning

Check Point #1/Lesson 1

Side-coaching in small groups

Check Point #2/Lesson 2

Journal Entry
Peer Evaluation 

Check Point #3/Lesson 3

Journal Entry
Mind Map

Check Point #4/Lesson 4

Talk Around


Unit Lessons: How will assessment and instruction be organized for learning?

Approx. Duration 1 class=70 


Lesson 1

Lesson 1 - Feeling Nature's Connection

Students will use environmental artifacts as stimuli to create a solo composition. Through the creation, students will become aware of the environment and begin to understand the similarities between dance and the environment. Students will perform their solo with the whole group, with half the group and then in small groups. Students will reflect on how the various groupings changed the atmosphere or the message.

1 class
Lesson 2

Lesson 2 - Exploring an Environmental Issue

Using a quotes as stimulus, in small groups, students will explore climate change through the creation of 5 movements. They will use their solos created in Lesson 1 and as a group link the two phrases as a way of enhancing the contrast and emphasizing the impact of factors that harm the environment. Students will share their movement piece with the class.

2 classes
Lesson 3

Lesson 3 – Using Source Material for Inspiration

Students will learn that various sources can inspire movement. Through watching the video Earth Song, brainstorming environmental issues on a graphic organizer, creating a mind map and individually choosing one artifact or source material, students will create a short personal phrase about their own source. From these activities, movement vocabulary will be generated and students in their small groups will explore how they might compose their dance piece. Students will also be asked to creatively present their source/artifact at the end of the unit.

3 classes
Lesson 4

Lesson 4 – Site Specific Dance

Students will learn about site specific dance through observing a piece called Zummel and by reading an article. In small groups, students will answer a specific question and then share their answer with the group and with the whole class. Students will brainstorm a list of sites that they could possibly perform their piece in and then with teacher conferencing, will choose one site. Small groups will further develop and rehearse their work in that space and through peer feedback will continue to refine, revise and make artistic choices. The teacher will conference with each group to ensure accountability and monitor progress.  

2 classes
Lesson 5

Lesson 5 - Expression and Vision

Students will be asked to reflect on the process of creating their composition and will be asked to think about two ideas: expression of ideas and following through with ones' vision. The teacher will decide on an order for the presentations and can base this decision on the various issues. Students will present their visual component of artifacts/sources and then perform their dance pieces. As groups are presenting, students will analyze the pieces using a graphic organizer. Finally, students will reflect upon the dance work and the impact it had on them.

3 classes