Youth Engagement

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.

After-School Programming

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

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

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!


Across The Floor Takes Its First Steps

OMAHA – Thanks to grants from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, The Omaha School Foundation and OCF Community Enrichment Fund, WhyArts … Read More

Activity Bags Delivered to Community Partners

Since people can’t come to WhyArts, WhyArts is coming to the people. Last week, 120 art + fun bags were … Read More

Color, Movement, Imagination Showcased in “Tales from the Sea”

Brightly colored schools of fish. A yellow submarine the Beatles would be proud to call their own. Jellyfish that emitted … Read More

The Monster Project: Making Movie Trailers at Marrs and McMillan

Imagine being imprisoned for something you didn’t do. Then imagine retelling your experience in the form of a film for … Read More

Introducing The WhyArts Story Bag

WhyArts teaching artists have a new tool at their disposal this fall – The WhyArts Story Bag. The bag is … Read More

Scenes from the 2019 Teacher Artist Training

With the 2019-20 school year just around the corner, members of the WhyArts teaching faculty gathered at UNO last month … Read More