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Sleepy Hollow Middle School Students Enrich Social Studies Lessons Through Dance

The Red Hot Chili Pepper team at Sleepy Hollow Middle School participated in an exclusive virtual dance workshop earlier this month with Step Afrika!, expanding their knowledge of African culture and how dance is used as a means to communicate.

As part of Michelle Sciullo's social studies classes, students study the history of the Eastern Hemisphere. The sixth graders researched African countries when learning about ancient Egyptian culture and world religions and took their lessons to a new level.

“We were thrilled to learn of a virtual program where we could connect our knowledge of Africa with a modern style of American dance called ‘Step’, with African roots,” said Sciullo.  

Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 and is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. It blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, traditional African dances and an array of contemporary dance and art forms into a cohesive, compelling artistic experience. 

SHMS students enjoyed this interactive way to bolster their lessons. The sixth graders watched videos during the workshop and discovered how dance acted as a universal language among people from different countries who worked together. Then the students practiced the moves.

“It is a good idea to study (different) cultures and it is better to learn something than stay in a shell,” said sixth grader Ashley Quezada. “We learned what makes someone unique.”

Her classmate Breanne Rodriguez described the workshop as an opportunity to try something new. “(This was) a fun way to express ourselves and show us how people are different and how they communicate with each other.” 

Step Afrika!  promotes stepping as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding.