The Dot Connector: Fostering Collaboration in Non-profit Arts Education

by Jana Riess in Q Ideas

In the dilapidated gym at Hoffman-Parham Elementary School in Cincinnati, third-graders swirl and dance, giggle and sway, moving in time to the “Blue Danube Waltz” blaring from a CD player. They are proud to show off for their parents and fellow students, yet slightly awed by their instructor, a dancer from the Cincinnati Ballet.

But this isn’t just a ballet performance. It’s also a lesson in geography and language arts. The dance has been choreographed to help the students not only appreciate ballet but also hit key benchmarks in the all-important Ohio Achievement Test, given to students throughout the state each spring. As the kids glide across the room, they show how the Danube flows from west to east. When they touch the 10 hula hoops scattered about the gym, they depict how the Danube flows through or along 10 different European nations. When the dancers gleefully collide into the far wall, they are the Danube, emptying into the Black Sea.

At a time when school districts nationwide are cutting budgets, it’s no longer a given that music, art and dance are essential to a child’s education. In Cincinnati, however, arts advocates and educators are working together to make sure the arts remain a vital part of children’s lives, helping them to excel academically.

The catalyst that’s bringing them together is Strive, a new kind of nonprofit that creates collaborative partnerships…

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