Studies show that children who engage with the arts can experience lifelong benefits, including higher attendance and graduation rates, higher median income and lower poverty rates. When you add in the elements of social-emotional learning to arts programming, we have the opportunity to help build a community of lifelong lovers of art who are kinder, more compassionate and understand the value of arts in their lives.
Our after-school youth programs serve childhood, elementary and middle school students across the metro during the school year. Our teaching artists provide a diverse array of meaningful and engaging creative arts activities during these Out of School-Time hours. These programs reach more than 3,000 students a year and are made possible through funding from The Sherwood Foundation, Collective for Youth and The Jetton Foundation. WhyArts partners with 30+ OPS schools as well as the NorthStar Foundation, Nelson Mandela School, Jesuit Academy, Kids Can, Completely Kids and others. Thanks to our 2021 merger with Arts in Motion, we now offer the following movement programs for metro youth:
Dancing Classrooms, developed in 1994, introduces students to ballroom dance, which they can enjoy throughout life. It’s also a specific method of teaching dance that’s designed to increase social and emotional development through teamwork, mutual respect and discipline among diverse classmates. Instruction occurs in the form of a 10-week residency within the structure of a regular school day. Through the mastery and performance of six basic ballroom dances, students:
- Develop a greater sense of confidence, civility, tolerance and patience within themselves and for each other
- Improve their fitness and coordination as they focus their physical energy on rhythmic movement to music
- Broaden their knowledge of the artistic, cultural, historic and geographic elements of the six dances
In 2006, Omaha became an official Dancing Classrooms location – the first city outside of New York to offer the program. Today, Dancing Classrooms operates in 60 classrooms at 33 schools throughout Omaha, serving more than 2,000 students annually. It is free to the student and is all-inclusive. If requested, students are provided with free dress clothes for the performances, which they can keep following their participation in the program.
Saturday Academy is the weekend extension of Dancing Classrooms. It offers students throughout Omaha an opportunity to expand on what they have learned during the in-school program and work with a diverse group of students across the city. This program is open to any Dancing Classrooms student. It is free, all-inclusive, offered at an accessible school location and includes American Sign Language interpreters and free bus transportation to and from the classes.
Take a look at our youth engagement in action below!