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Movement Leads To Learning in Children

Our Adapted Gymnastic class looks like a lot of fun, but there is more going on than what the observer sees. Recently our Adapted Gymnastics...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why Should Your Son Be Taking Gymnastics??

There are many articles that cover the internet as to the values of children being in a gymnastics class. But we want to talk specifically about boys today. Why? Because families of boys tend to overlook gymnastics for their sons in our area, and turn more towards soccer, baseball, basketball, football, martial arts, and the shooting and hunting sports.

Why would gymnastics be overlooked? Well, probably because the television networks spend more time showing girls at gymnastic meets and only a small amount of time on the male gymnasts. Stop and think about it. How much coverage did you see on the men's Olympic team this past year? Don't remember? Probably because it was not during prime time network coverage.    

Why should your son be taking gymnastics? Well, we have a lot of ideas that is documented truth and will share about that later. But first let's talk about some of the things that we hear parents say to us about their son being in gymnastics. Some things such as, "We thought is was a sport only for girls." Or, "My boy is not going to wear one of those stretchy leotard things!" Or how about, "Boys can't bend and do splits like girls can!". And, "Gymnastics is a girls sport, not a boys sport!"  We encourage you to read on......

Gymnastics originates from the Greek and Roman games. Some articles even say is was used as a form of physical training for the military in ancient Spain. Here is one version of origin we found on the Scholastics.com site for teachers
(https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/history-gymnastics-ancient-greece-modern-times/) . It reads:

"Gymnastics was introduced in early Greek civilization to facilitate bodily development through a series of exercises that included running, jumping, swimming, throwing, wrestling, and weight lifting. Many basic gymnastic events were practiced in some form before the introduction by the Greeks of gymnazein, literally, "to exercise naked." Physical fitness was a highly valued attribute in ancient Greece, and both men and women participated in vigorous gymnastic exercises. The Romans, after conquering Greece, developed the activities into a more formal sport, and they used the gymnasiums to physically prepare their legions for warfare. With the decline of Rome, however, interest in gymnastics dwindled, with tumbling remaining as a form of entertainment."

So, back to why your son should be in gymnastics class. First of all, gymnastics is a great way for your child to develop better physical fitness. It is challenging and never boring, well, maybe a bit boring when they get stuck on a particular skill and feel like they are not going anywhere with the sport. But that is with every sport. Correct?

But a great coach knows how to distract your son from the complaint of boredom with different variations of the drills in learning a new skill. They can make it into a fitness challenge game that you son will enjoy and eventually see improvement from. The coach will track your child's skills and probably even post them on a check off poster for a visual enhancement towards working more to achieve other skill levels! 

Besides increasing your child's fitness level, they will also learn other great skills such as balance, spatial awareness, body control, strength of mind and personal commitment. 

Gymnastics also teaches all students that a particular skill starts at "X" and ends at "Y", thus also teaching a young child to follow through until they reach the end of the skill situation. Which transfers to being able to complete school assignments and projects! School teachers love having gymnastic students in their classes because of the strict self discipline the student acquires in the training of the body and mind.   


Gymnastics as we know it today, is a competitive sport and there are opportunities of being asked to be on teams. One of the major values learned in a gymnastic class or on a team is always working towards your personal best. That when a skill does not work on a particular day, you just keep trying and continue to work towards your goals. If you fall, gymnastics teaches you how to get back up quickly and try again. Once again, a personal skill training that transfers over into school and later in life into the work force. Being able to keep moving forward in life, no mater how many obstacles is a great way to get on a team.

Camaraderie in a gymnastic class seems to be like no other. Instead of your classmates sitting on a bench, maybe checking their cell phones, when you miss a tumbling element, or grab of a bar, in gymnastics the classmates are on the mats working out as well. They encourage with high fives and constant sayings of encouragement to get back up and try again, and again.

Speaking of a bench. There is none! Well, maybe a bench to sit on to take your shoes off or put your warm ups back on, but NO BENCH to sit on when you are training! Even if others in the training have made the team, and your son is still training to make the team, there is NO BENCH and NO SIDELINE in gymnastics class. No waiting and wanting to be able to get on the floor. No wondering if someone gets hurt, will you be chosen to be the one that gets on the floor next. AMAZING! No waiting for something to happen to the better athletes so that your child can go in and continue his training.
 
Gymnastics, like Cheerleading, historically has been dominated by males. It was a male that brought gymnastics from Europe to the United States.

"The sport was introduced to the United States by Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, who taught gymnastics in several U.S. universities about the time of the Civil War, and who is credited with inventing more than 30 pieces of apparatus. Most of the growth of gymnastics in the United States centered on the activities of European immigrants, who introduced the sport in their new cities in the 1880s. Clubs were formed as Turnverein and Sokol groups, and gymnasts were often referred to as "turners." Modern gymnastics excluded some traditional events, such as weight lifting and wrestling, and emphasized form rather than personal rivalry." (Scholastic.com)

Some of the top coaches in the US and the work have been male coaches. And gymnastics for males was in the Olympics forty years before women's gymnastics.

"Men's gymnastics was on the schedule of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and it has been on the Olympic agenda continually since 1924. Olympic gymnastic competition for women began in 1936 with an all-around competition, and in 1952 competition for the separate events was added. In the early Olympic competitions the dominant male gymnasts were from Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland, the countries where the sport first developed. But by the 1950's, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the Eastern European countries began to produce the leading male and female gymnasts." (Scholastics.com)

What can your son expect when he enters one of our gymnastic classes? The first thing he will notice is a lack of boredom! The next thing he can expect is a lot of movement and activity. New skills are always talked through and demonstrated. There is a warm up, a stretch session to develop better flexibility and then drills that help to build skills and strength. There is time for individual work on the skills each person is trying to achieve. And then there is a cool down and stretch out before the class is dismissed. 

Why should your son be taking gymnastics class? Gymnastics is a sport that through the training, your son will develop self discipline, a stronger body and mind positioning, time management, follow through on projects, camaraderie with other classmates, and an understanding that a sport can be part of your life, but is not life. Life is learning that no matter how many times you fall down, you can get yourself up again and again. And gymnastics can help them to learn, see and be that. A person that just not give up on themselves in achieving their life goals.

* Mary Myers is the owner of Academy of Fine Arts in Woodward Oklahoma. She has been coaching gymnastics for 40 years. 




Monday, January 16, 2017

Is Your Dance Teacher A Genius?


Most dance teachers would probably say no, they are not a genius. But when you consider all the continual training and the areas of training they have studied over the years, your dance teacher may be one of the most educated persons you will meet in your life. Especially if your teacher is also part of the administration, or the business owner, of the dance school you take classes at.

For instance, your teacher has spent many years on their own training and learning from the very beginning, just as you have. They have suffered through the sore tight muscles, blisters, muscle fatigue, etc, such as you have. They have worked on memory skills and retention, again and again, just as you have. But their training has never stopped at a certain level or after a particular master class.

If there is any one reason to admire your dance teacher, that for sure is that they are a "lifetime learner". With dance being an ever changing element in performing arts, with many trends and the classics to stay abreast of , a dance teacher is always studying, always working and always trying to be the best that they can be for their students.

With new trends, especially the more athletic styles of dance, has came more opportunity for student injuries in class. This means that your dance teacher not only needs to know the moves, steps, style, etc, but also the correct technique that helps his or her students to learn injury free for a lifetime. He or she has most likely trained in assessing injuries to a certain level  and has taken first aide and CPR classes.

Your dance teacher also understands history and the progressions of dance and how to use that history to build creative choreography for the future. Dance is not new. It is just evolving all the time. By knowing dance history, your teacher knows how to connect to the world and help a dancer to grow.

To understand technique, your teacher has spent hours upon hours of study and practice in  dance and stretch techniques, anatomy, physiology, kinetics, and general science. They know how the body should operate free of injury and understand the different elements that makes up one movement at a time. If they did not, they would not be able to break down the dance movements and teach it in different steps or levels for their students.  They would not understand how to defy gravity for turns, leaps and jumps.

All dance teachers have studied nutrition. Either in a class situation or on their own. Nutrition is essential for a properly working body, and so they study to be able to continue to to dance for hours and multiple days a week. Great dance teachers also are a role model exhibiting proper hydration and preparation before, between and after classes by what they choose to eat and drink.

Time management is an important skill that teachers spend hours in developing. After all, every class that she has you in, there is a designated amount of time allowed for what is to be worked on in class. Time management skills is also used in developing lesson plans, selecting costumes, choreographing dances and administrative duties. Time management skills are always being improved upon by self study or attending training's.

Costume and set design sounds like fun, but a skilled dance teacher knows just how to make every student on stage look beautiful in their performance! Besides getting the right fit, color and style of costume, your teacher also has to match it to the show theme. And then there is the set/stage design and the lighting and sound to be considered. Dance teachers spend weeks and hours on getting it just right, so that the dancers look beautiful and the audience is entertained.

Human development and coaching is also an area your dance teacher may of studied as well. Ever noticed that when you have a problem, your dance teacher may be someone that you feel comfortable enough with to go to? For some reason your teacher is a person that is easy to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a voice to encourage and a person to quickly give you information as to where to go to to get help, how to handle a situation, how to find your personal courage, etc.

Problem solving is a number one skill your dance teacher has had to learn to do. Ever notice how quickly they can change a part of the choreography that is not working? Pull a costume back together that decided to come apart just as you are about to step out on the stage? Find a way to mend a hurtful moment in class between you and another student? Help you tape a hurt ankle to go right back onto stage? Dance teachers have high level problem solving skills that tend to be over looked by many.

So, is your dance teacher a genius? They would probably say no. But ask as many adults today what skills they learned most from their dance teachers. Probably they will not remember the dance steps or technique. But they more than likely will tell you about all the life skills they learned in dance classes from their genius dance teachers.


*Written by Mary Myers, owner and director of Academy of Fine Arts in Woodward OK.






Saturday, October 29, 2016

Movement Leads To Learning in Children

Our Adapted Gymnastic class looks like a lot of fun, but there is more going on than what the observer sees. Recently our Adapted Gymnastics class was featured in the Woodward BoomTown Magazine published by The Woodward News. We invite you to read it and learn how gymnastics is making a difference in the lives of these children. We are also very grateful for the interviews our parents were willing to participate in.

Thank you Elise Solloway, writer for the Woodward News, for the opportunity to share with our community area about this great program and what the benefits may be for these children.

You can read the article from this link :
https://www.joomag.com/magazine/mag/0884212001476111454?feature=archive

Friday, August 19, 2016

Should My Child Compete?

One of the most asked questions we encounter is "Should my child compete?" Some parents worry about the experience not being a positive one. Others are sure their child will do fine in competition, but worry about the travel and competition costs. We look at this situation a bit differently.

If your child has siblings at home, participates in the city sports league, enters essay contests at school, takes a playing test in band for chair placement, they already compete! They are already in a training ground position to learn to compete as an adult for scholarships, job placements, job advancements, etc. Competing in dance is actually about learning to perform at the highest level of competition available to them.

There are many different ways to compete in dance. Some think that the easiest way to learn is to just jump in and learn a dance and go to the competition. The idea in this case is that the dancers will become better just by getting the experience. 

Another method of getting to competition is to "hold auditions". That way you place them on a "team" that the abilities matching up with other dancers. Some feel this is the most successful way. Or they will group everyone in age groups, but use the audition process for lead parts or "who goes on the front row".

And yet another, is based on how many classes a child takes per week as to if they can be on the "competition team". The majority of these methods of dance team placement never bring in the personality and personal strength of the child.

We would like to suggest a different way of preparing for competition on the dance stage. One that we have found great success with for  our dance teams. It is a way of grooming, empowering and teaching them about performance first. One that allows us to help the child to find their place on the team rather than be told which team they can perform with. 

The method we use is four steps:
1. Regular weekly classes for a strong dance education.
2. Participation in master classes and conventions (we are highly selective about the conventions).
3. Community performances through out the year and recitals. A lot of community performances!
4. Competition team placement and work.

By using this method, the teachers and director has a chance to get to know the child better. We learn what a child's strengths are and what we need to work on to help them through the process. For instance, a lot of time is spent on just entering and exiting the stage that demonstrates confidence. Without confidence, the routine is not going to go well, no matter how much practice and training on the routine has been done.

Personality in performance is important as well. Getting to know the child better helps with building the choreography around the students personality, instead of pushing them into roles that they cannot pull off. As a dance adjudicator, I can say it is very evident when the personality of the students has not been considered and used to set the choreography. 

Music selection is also key to success, and again can be a part of the personality situation. Too mature or immature of  music for the dance group can mean that the dancers never really connect with the music and are unable to deliver a great performance. 

Participation in master classes, conventions, workshops and community performances is an opportunity for the student to grow not only in their dance, but as a person and performer. It is an opportunity to find out personally what their strengths are and not just be told by their teacher or parents where they are strong. It is also a way for them to face any fears in a supportive environment, without anxiety that they may "mess up" the team". It is a way of truly growing a team to work together at different ability levels.

Is your child ready to compete? Probably. Probably because they have already been competing and trying to get to the front row in class already. But the real question to ask is, "Is your child ready to grow and discover who they are?". 

*Mary Myers is the Director of Academy of Fine Arts in Woodward Oklahoma. She is a teacher, choreographer and adjudicator. 




Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why Music Training Should Be A Part Of Your Child's Growing Years

Why Music Training
 Should Be A Part Of Your Child's Growing Years 

Most parents understand that music for their child is a good choice. But just listening to Kid's Bop or Disney Tunes is not what we are talking about here today. We are talking about your child experiencing and learning to read and play music on actual instruments, and not on an iPad or iPhone.

Research has found that music can help to grow a child's brain, help children make better connections to math, relieve stress and lower blood pressure in children and adults, improves rhythm for reading skills, improves focus and much more. Music is also one of the "activities" you can put your child in that can soon develop into an education, that can also lead to a college scholarship and career.

But let's look at it a bit deeper for the very young child. Young children, under 7 years of age can actually learn to read music, probably even before they can read their first book, according to Debbie Yakabosky, creator and CEO of Music FunTime.

Music is something that we can all benefit from, but a child connects to it so easily that they can use the rhythm from their favorite song to self sooth at night going to sleep. Or they can use an upbeat tune they love to hum to help with better skipping skills and other gross motor skills that fit to a rhythmic beat. Remember skipping rope to simple songs and rhymes? How much more fun it was to have a tune running through our heads or coming from our lips as we worked the rope.

Music written on paper is made up of symbols and combinations of symbols, much like math. When one of our daughters was having trouble learning fractions in grade school, and did not have a teacher that could figure out how to get her to understand fractions ( as I was told at the parent teacher conference), I quickly sprung into action and introduced her to two different helping tools, reading music notes and their counts, and baking cookies. She soon had a better idea of working fractions, much to the amazement of her teacher.

Music is magical. Just think about watching a movie with no sound track. How boring that would be! Nothing to carry our imagination and emotions to higher levels and helping us to discover connections to the characters. Next time you sit down with your child to listen to music, use the soundtrack of their favorite movie. You will certainly hear them tell part of the movie script, if not even being able to recite the full lines of the story. Music helps us with memory and recall. Your child knows this and lives it through every magical moment.

Music helps your child to create their own stories. Whether playing on an instrument or listening to someone play a piece on the piano. Recently, once of our grandsons was staying over and asked to play the piano. Of course we said yes.

He started out improving something very bold and dynamic and then it would soften and become very lyrical. He repeated the process again, and it appeared to be the same. Quickly I took out my camera to see if I could capture this moment on video. He started again. And once again, the melody was the same, big, bold and dynamic, then suddenly soft and lyrical.

He turned around to pick up a music book sitting on the bench and realized I was standing behind him with my camera. Smiling, he asked if I heard his song he had played (his improvisation). I stated yes that I did. He continued, "It is a song about two people getting married." I asked if it was a wedding march, and he said yes that it was.

Later, I asked his mom if they had attended any weddings recently and her answer was no. Most likely he has never seen or been part of an actual wedding, but may have seen one on television in a TV show or movie. Later in reviewing the video, I had to watch it three times in awe. Listening very close, you could hear a simple melody very close to Canon in D Minor. Now how did that happen? He is only 4 years old and yes takes piano lessons, but is not at that level yet for sure! Music connects with children and music is magical. Music grows the brain.

I believe that most music educators would agree with me when I tell you that it just may be time to put all digital music aside and start getting out instruments for your child to explore with. Instead of a few more video games, check out lessons. When attending a movie, ask your child what they think of the music soundtrack.

When setting your schedule for the school year and blocking out time for homework and reading, block out time for playing music. Put the videos games away and bring out the instruments and watch and listen for the magic to happen. (I see you smiling.)


*Mary Myers is the director and owner of Academy of Fine Arts in Woodward OK . 






Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Gymnastics For Special Needs Children?

Gymnastics For Special Needs Children?

Gymnastics can be a great outlet for activity and fun for special needs children. A properly structured class can allow them time to release pent up energy by running, jumping, bouncing, rolling, etc. It gives them another social outlet. It brings smiles and laughter.

For all children, a gymnastic class helps to build strength and flexibility. It also allows them to experience success as well as failure. Build core strength and grip, etc. But for special needs children the benefit of being in a gymnastic class are much larger and more towards life skills, such as walking, focus, and communicating. 

Gymnastics allows a special needs child to be in an environment that is not only physical, but cognitive as well. They that have to focus on small and large skills while working to place their bodies in the right position to maneuver the body through the gymnastic movement. After all, walking on a 4 inch wide balance beam is no easy feat (an act or achievement that shows courage, strength or skill) for anyone!

But lets look at what else gymnastic classes can offer a special needs child.

1. On the physical side of a gymnastic class, a special needs child can learn better balance and work on core strength that helps with day to day activities such as sitting and walking for any length of time. This in turn helps in attending school and OT therapy sessions.

They also get to experience flight by jumping on bounders and trampolines and when ready, the ability to land on their feet from a simple dismount and safely roll out. This is in hope that they will learn to do a safety roll if ever falling from a height.

Rolling itself is a vestibular  activity that helps us to understand the perception of body position and movement. It is why so many children, including myself as a child, will get in a swing and spin in it, instead of swinging back and forth, until you are nauseous. It is a necessary development need to develop this state of balance and being in space and time.

2. As an energy outlet, there is none better! With padded floors and equipment to land on, it is a great environment to start learning about success (which we highly praised) and failure (we praise the effort). The gym is a big open space that allows a child to move, run, work and train in. And with all of the colorful foam shapes such as wedges, octagons, trapezoids and more, you can't help by laugh and have a great time.

3. Gymnastics is also a social outlet. All children learn to wait their turn, walk in a line, respect other gymnasts, and develop friendships. They also learn to support each other with the demonstration of high fives, a pat on the back and sometimes even a cheer of "you can do it"!

4. Gymnastics is motor building fun! Brightly colored equipment make challenge courses, that develop gross motor skills, fun and entertaining. Learning to grip and swing on the bars can lead to better writing skills and arm strength.

5. Gymnastics is great for learning spatial and body awareness. It is great for increasing focus and controlling our movements. From walking on beams to bouncing on trampolines, they learn to control their landing on their feet.

Yes, gymnastics is great for special needs children. And yes, some may never do a back handspring or a tuck. They may never compete in a gymnastics meet. But one thing for sure, they will always steal a gymnastic coaches heart,



*Mary Myers is the owner and director of Academy of Fine Arts. They offer dance and gymnastics for special needs children.