Croakers Square

If you’re past the age where you start lying about your age, there’s a good chance you remember having square dancing as a required part of your school curriculum growing up. It was an annual staple in most gym classes–not surprising, considering over 2/3 of US states claim square dancing as a state dance in some form–but what most folks seem to remember best is that nobody really liked it: teachers taught it begrudgingly, and there were always kids who’d pretend to be sick on square dancing days.

So why was it featured in the program at all? Well, as we here at Croakers have often pointed out,  square dancing is an excellent activity for teaching coordination. It also promotes social interaction, forcing the boys to interact with the girls years before they’d love to do it voluntarily. But there are more reasons square dancing is great for kids. Things like:

  1. It aids the development of kinesthetic intelligence–the ability to use one’s body with precision. Square dancing requires kids to consistently be in the right location,
  2. It promotes the child’s ability to interpret nonverbal communication while creating opportunities for nonverbal self-expression. Square dancing is not normally considered “interpretive dance,” but it is a step in the right direction.
  3. It underlines the value of following rules while it develops the ability to think ahead and anticipate what’s next. You need to be on your toes (literally and figuratively).
  4. It connects students to history, civilization and develop an understanding and respect older cultures: face it, square dancing has been around for a long while, and proving over and over that it can withstand the test of time.
  5. It stimulates all the senses, going beyond verbal language to help develop multisensory skills.

Beyond all this, of course, it helps students develop physical fitness, coordination, appreciation of physical exercises, and even effective approaches for stress management. It’s the real deal, which is why dancing in general was part of the Goals 2000/Educate America Act of 1994.

And there’s another thing, something that is touched on by all these reasons but supersedes them, in many ways: you’re teaching a tangible skill. Even for students who never square dance again, you’ve still passed along a series of instructions that had to be implemented in a specific way. The steps may never be used again in their lives, but the fact that they learned them–and HOW they learned them–is an important lesson.

Certainly, kids will be uncomfortable and awkward at first–that is to be expected. But perseverance will pay off in the end, with the satisfaction of mastering a skill. To quote a successful entrepreneur,

Challenges always seem abundant in the beginning, primarily because you haven’t developed adequate conflict resolutions skills yet. Perseverance is a necessary personality trait, one that will be put to the test often.

Square dancing is often viewed as being … well, square. But the life lessons it teaches reach far beyond simple movements around the dance floor. If you can get kids to give it a chance, they might find out it’s also fun.

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