Skip to main content Skip to main content

The Arts In Every Classroom: A Video Library K-5

Students Create a Multi-Arts Performance

A team of arts specialists and classroom teachers at Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans guides kindergarten and fourth–grade students in creating an original work based on Cirque du Soleil's Quidam. The program presents highlights of the creative process, including brainstorming about characters' emotions, creating speech and movement for the characters, constructing costumes, and performing.

View Transcript

A kindergartner explains the costume he created to be a “Fantastical Creature” in an original performance piece at Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, a kindergarten class and a fourth-grade class studied various aspects of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam over several months. Classroom teachers and dance and theatre teachers used Quidam to help teach a variety of subjects.

As a culminating activity, the students created an original performance piece inspired by Quidam, following the classic “hero’s journey” story structure.

Teachers met for planning sessions every week, and the kindergarten and fourth-grade classes met jointly with all the teachers twice a week. The unit began with background lessons in several subject areas, including math, science, English, and the arts. Later, the children watched the videotape of Quidam.

This program includes highlights of the creative process.

Featured People

Who’s Who
(In order of appearance)

  • Kathy DeJean, dance teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (See interview below)
  • Amanda Newberry, theatre teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Kathy Guidry, kindergarten teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (See interview below)
  • Tricia Ruf, student teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Featured Schools

Lusher Alternative Elementary School

  • Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Principal: Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger
  • Assistant Principal: Sheila Nelson
  • Featured teachers and collaborators: Kathy DeJean, dance teacher; Marti Dumas, fifth-grade teacher; Carolyn Cunningham, fifth-grade teacher; Amanda Newberry, theatre teacher; Warren Irwin, visiting artist; Megan Neelis, second-grade teacher; Eve Gitlin, third-grade teacher; Paul Reynaud, first-grade teacher; Geralyn Broussard, first-grade teacher; Nancy Lilly, fourth-grade teacher; Ann Rowson Love, curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art; Louise Trimble Kepper, artist and student of Will Henry Stevens; Kathy Guidry, kindergarten teacher; Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher; Tricia Ruf, student teacher; Adele Brown, fourth-grade teacher
  • Grades: K–5
  • Number of students: About 500
  • Number of faculty: About 49
  • Demographic information: Thirty percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Two percent of students are English language learners. The student population is 49 percent Caucasian, 41 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American.

Lusher Alternative Elementary, a K–5 public school in the Orleans Parish School District, provides a student-centered curriculum in an atmosphere where each child is encouraged to develop academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.

Strong emphasis is put on a core curriculum with opportunity for development of individual needs and talents using varied teaching styles and strategies. Aided by the Annenberg-Getty Arts Partnership as an Art School Partner, Lusher upholds its school motto: “Celebrating Cultural Diversity Through High Academics and the Arts.”

Lusher’s Talented in the Arts program meets the needs of students who have exceptional ability in music, visual art, or drama. Students are referred by teachers and screened through an evaluation process by the school’s special education department. Students who leave their regular classes to take part in this program also are expected to keep up their regular class work.

Respect for the rights of others and oneself are of utmost importance at Lusher. Teachers use a positive approach to discipline through the Project Pride program. Project Pride’s four basic rules are: be kind, be responsible, do your best work, and respect people and property. At Lusher, the strong bonds of commitment and cooperation among students, teachers, administrators, and the community help provide a strong education for each child.

Information provided by Lusher Alternative Elementary School. Current as of February 2002.

Featured Approaches

Creative Process

This program features four phases of the students’ work:

  • Brainstorming Zoe’s Journey. Students determine the feelings of their four characters in each phase of the journey. Teachers use questioning techniques to probe details.
  • Adding Words and Movement. The children communicate the characters’ feelings through speech and movement. Choices reflect what the children have learned about expression through vocal patterns and dance techniques.
  • Creating Costume Pieces. Students create costumes to identify the characters. The children explain their choices of colors, materials, and design.
  • Performing Zoe’s Journey. Students perform the six-minute piece before an audience for the first time.


Who Should Watch This Program

This program can be used as a model in professional development units on collaboration between classroom teachers and arts specialists, team-building, student-to-student mentoring, and using the arts to enhance learning.

Other audiences for this program might include:

  • curriculum or arts project planners, to help them consider ways the arts can enhance learning in subject areas such as math, science, and language arts;
  • administrators, policymakers, parents, and prospective partners, to build support for teaching the arts as subjects in themselves and using the arts to teach other subjects; and
  • visiting artists, artists-in-residence, and other collaborators, to stimulate ideas for promoting student success.

Before Watching

In their work for this unit, students address several key concepts:

  • the interaction of fantasy and reality;
  • the idea that stories have a beginning, middle, and end;
  • the relationship of action words and topic sentences to movement; and
  • science and math principles seen in patterns and textures.

As you watch this program, consider:

  • how these concepts could be applied to working with other works of art; and
  • how the children used these concepts in their multi-arts performance.

This unit also reflects several important goals for the students, such as:

  • analysis and critical thinking;
  • mentoring of kindergarten students by fourth-grade students;
  • teamwork in creating and performing;
  • immersion in creating a work of art; and
  • understanding a work of art through the process of creation.

Identify ways that students demonstrated their mastery of these skills as they created and performed their original work of art.




Kathy DeJean

Dance teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Kathy DeJean has a bachelor’s degree and master of fine arts degree in dance. Trained in music and theatre as well as in dance, she has extensive experience as a teacher and choreographer and has performed in dance programs and musical theatre throughout the United States.

Q. What are the benefits and challenges of having kindergartners and fourth-graders work together?

A. Fourth-graders develop genuine respect and responsibility for the kindergartners. They become comrades and friends. Part of their collaboration involves reading aloud together. The kindergartners select the stories, and fourth-graders become more self-confident in their reading.

Q. Do you combine other grades or subjects? For what kind of work?

A. Yes, we do a combination of fifth grade and kindergarten and include math and science in their exploration with movement.

Q. How often did you work with the students to develop the multi-arts performance piece? For how long?

A. We worked together twice a week for one to two hours.

Q. Was there a final performance? Who attended?

A. The final performances were attended by other classes and then by the general public.

Q. What surprised you about the work the students did as they created their performance piece?

A. Their level of understanding of Zoe’s feelings toward her parents and the elements that played a role in changing her feelings.

Q. How would you describe your teaching philosophy as it relates to work on the “Zoe’s Journey” unit?

A. I am a holistic learner, and my teaching reflects that. The “big picture” is very important for me to assimilate detail.

Q. Do you use different teaching approaches for different situations or goals?

A. Every situation dictates specific goals based on the level and need of each student, the class as a whole, and the ability of the classroom teacher.

Q. What are the challenges and benefits of collaborating with classroom teachers?

A. The challenge is to reach every child in a memorable way, so the experience is never forgotten. The benefits to the children are endless and include:

  • self-esteem building;
  • extra support;
  • help in exploration;
  • enhanced right- and left-brain integration; and
  • experience in dealing with conflict.

Q. What advice would you give for making collaborations with classroom teachers effective?

A. The most effective collaborations begin with an open, sharing, giving environment established among the adults or teachers. The students will reflect the same honesty, enthusiasm, and dynamic interaction if the adult modeling is sincere. Adults should plan, meet, interact, think, respond, and laugh.



Carolyn DuBois

Fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Carolyn DuBois has a bachelor’s degree in education and has been a teacher since the early 1980s. She is a co-author of Addison-Wesley Publishing Company’s Louisiana workbooks in math, and she runs math workshops for New Orleans public schools. DuBois also has been a music and dance workshop facilitator for the Louisiana Institute for Education in the Arts and is a member of the state superintendent’s Task Force for the Arts.

Q. What led you to use Quidam as the basis for a unit?

A. Kathy DeJean and I work together on a unit every year. She approached me with the idea of doing a unit around Quidam. We watched it, and she threw out the idea of “taking a journey.” That was a stretch, because usually we start with a concept that is more obvious. This one involved a lot of abstract thinking.

At first I thought Quidam was pretty strange and weird. But I think it was one of the better units we did, because I had to stretch and think outside the box.

Q. What subject areas did the Quidam unit tie into? What were some of those related lessons?

A. Quidam became a unit of study for nine weeks — everything we did was built around it. The word “transformation” was our key vocabulary word. It led us to look at all sorts of cycles — water, insects, animals, sleep cycles. The kids brought in pictures of their lives, from baby to the present, and we looked at their transformation. And then we related it to the stages of a butterfly’s life, and a tadpole’s.

The unit tied in with language arts, math, and science. In science we tied into inventors and simple machines. (When you read about inventors, you start to do timelines, and that leads to social studies too.) We tied in to recycling — we saved recyclable objects and used them to make inventions. Then we wrote about the purpose of the invention and how it would help save the Earth. In math, we did a Venn diagram to find what was similar between the inventors and Magritte.

In language, I used journeys to teach storytelling. I believe that if you can tell a story, you can write a story. “The Call,” “The Challenge,” and “The Return” in our performance are like the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story. Zoe’s story isn’t a real story; it’s like a fable or a fairy tale with a conflict that gets resolved and people living happily every after.

When we were studying Magritte we looked at a clip from a movie, The Thomas Crown Affair. There’s a scene where everyone is wearing a bowler hat, which is also an image in Quidam. Then we looked at one of Magritte’s paintings where a man is wearing a bowler hat and has a big apple for a nose.

Q. What were your learning objectives for this unit? What were your goals for individual students?

A. Critical thinking and problem solving are what it’s all about. We brought them in as much as we could into all the subject areas. That’s what the kids need to be able to do.

I don’t have enough time to teach everything. But if I can teach the kids to think, then they can work through anything, any problem. And guess what, it works! For the last three years, every one of my kids has passed the LEAP [Louisiana Educational Assessment Program], given in fourth and eighth grades, where passage is required to move on to the next grade]. The arts being at the core of the curriculum is a big part of that success. Students are made to think and problem-solve. When you go outside of the textbook and the kids have to step out of the box, they have to think. There are no black-and-white answers.

The children became immersed in the idea of transformation, since it was the theme of everything we did for the nine weeks. When everything is tied together — when kids aren’t jumping from one concept to another — they don’t forget what was learned. They go home retaining more information.

Q. How did you assess the students’ work over the course of the unit?

A.The children had portfolios for everything we covered in art, science, math, etc. At the end of the unit I expected a certain number of things to be in the folder. I give out a rubric. It says, for example, your folder has to contain a certain number of vocabulary words related to Magritte, a certain number of written reflections, of math activities, of science work. The rubric says what’s needed to earn an A in each of those categories. So when you can hand in a reflection on a dream, if you want an A, it has to have a beginning, a middle, an end, and three or four details for each of those stages.

When they built their recycled invention, they got a grade for building and a grade for the creative writing. What they wrote had to say what the object was, why they invented it, and what its purpose was.

Q. Describe the faculty planning that went into this unit.

A. At the beginning, the four of us met for a whole afternoon of planning — the principal arranged substitutes for us. And we had several more meetings to plan the production. For the production, generally Kathy DeJean came up with the ideas, and then [kindergarten teacher] Kathy Guidry and I would do them in our classes, at the level we felt was appropriate to meet our individual classes’ goals. On the academic side, the classroom teacher finds ways to take the main idea — the journey — into the classroom.

Q. How did you feel after the unit was done?

A. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I was glad we decided to do it. As I said, it was a stretch because it was so abstract and I had to think differently.

Q. What are the benefits and challenges of collaborating with arts specialist teachers? What advice would you give to make the collaboration work effectively?

A. You have to be open-minded. The arts specialists come from a different perspective than the classroom teachers. But they open many doors of different ways of thinking. They help you meet different learning styles. Kathy DeJean works in a very kinesthetic way — and that’s a way that children learn.

I’ve been working with Kathy for about 10 years, and before that I worked with a storyteller and a visual artist through Arts Connection, which was part of the New Orleans public schools. Working with artists gives you an opportunity to see your children in a different perspective. It gives you a chance to see children who struggle in a regular class have real success.

Additional Resources

Related Video Library Programs
Watch these programs for more information on ideas explored in “Students Create a Multi-Arts Performance”:


Web Resources

Related Organizations and Resources:

Arts Education Standards


    • Content Standard 1 — Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Demonstrate accuracy in moving to a musical beat and responding to changes in tempo
      • Demonstrate kinesthetic awareness, concentration, and focus in performing movement skills
      • Demonstrate movements in straight and curved pathways
    • Content Standard 2 — Understanding choreographic principles, processes, and structures

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Use improvisations to discover and invent movement and to solve movement problems
  • Content Standard 3 — Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Present their own dances to peers and discuss their meanings with competence and confidence
  • Content Standard 4 — Applying and demonstrating critical and creative thinking skills in dance

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Explore, discover, and realize multiple solutions to a given movement problem; choose their favorite solution; and discuss the reasons for that choice


    • Content Standard 3 — Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Improvise simple rhythmic and melodic ostinato accompaniments
    • Content Standard 4 — Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Create and arrange music to accompany readings or dramatizations


    • Content Standard 1 — Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Collaborate to select interrelated characters, environments, and situations for classroom dramatizations
  • Content Standard 2 — Acting by assuming roles and interacting improvisations

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Use variations of locomotor and nonlocomotor movement and vocal pitch, tempo, and tone for different characters
  • Content Standard 3 — Designing by visualizing and arranging environments for classroom dramatizations

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Collaborate to establish playing spaces for classroom dramatizations and to select and safely organize available materials that suggest scenery, properties, lighting, sound, costumes, and makeup
    • Content Standard 4 — Directing by planning classroom dramatizations

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Collaboratively plan and rehearse improvisations and demonstrate various ways of staging classroom dramatizations

Visual Art

    • Content Standard 1 — Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Know the differences among materials, techniques, and processes
      • Describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses
      • Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
    • Content Standard 2 — Using knowledge of structures and functions

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
    • Content Standard 3 — Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Explore and understand prospective content for works of art
    • Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning

Source: National Standards for Arts Education, published by Music Educators National Conference (MENC). Copyright © 1994 by MENC. Used by permission. The complete National Arts Standards and additional materials relating to the standards are available from MENC, The National Association for Music Education, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston, VA 20191, telephone: 800-336-3768.

Source, Dance Standards: This article/quote is reprinted from National Standards for Arts Education with permission of the National Dance Association, an association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. The original source may be purchased from: National Dance Association, 1900 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1599;
or phone 703-476-3421.