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Dance, Writing, and the Indiana Dunes

Pine Elementary School

3rd Grade

2016 School Year

Program Summary 

“Dance, Writing, and the Indiana Dunes” was a year long, in-depth dance residency involving third graders at Pine Elementary in Michigan City, Indiana. Melli Hoppe, a professional choreographer, led the program that integrated local geography, science, and the environment through choreography and movement. Pine Elementary enjoyed around 20 visits from Hoppe throughout the year almost every Friday. Students learned basic concepts of choreography and made their own dances by interpreting text from books they read throughout the extent of the program. At the end of the first semester, students performed their own choreographed dances for students and families. At the end of the second semester, students took a field trip to the Indiana Dunes. They met with a naturalist who taught them about plant life throughout the area and they created poems based on the information they had learned that day. They performed original choreography based on their poems of Indiana Dunes plant life for a younger grade of students. Additionally, their art teacher connected a printmaking lesson based on the plant they had chosen to write about in their poem. The artwork and poems will be compiled into a book that will get to be part of the school’s permanent library. Books will be given to the third grade students involved in this program as well. This program is planned to continue for the next three years. Melli Hoppe will teach the group of incoming third graders as well as continue with her current group of students as they venture on to fourth grade.

Community Partners

Indiana Dunes State Park

"Indiana Dunes consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape. It lies at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County. Large sand dunes, located beyond the entire shoreline, have taken thousands of years to form, and tower nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan. A wide range of habitats and plant species are found in the park, with vegetation stabilizing some of the sand. These habitats provide homes for many types of plants and animals." For more information about the Indiana Dunes, visit

Indiana Dunes Nature Center

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Leslie Cefali, professional writer

Our School Partner

Pine Elementary School is located in Michigan City, Indiana. It is a magnet school for the visual and performing arts, teaching students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Arts for Learning worked with the Fine Arts Coordinator at Pine, Julie Schmidt. At Pine, their mission is to “ensure that each child achieves academic, social, and emotional success and develops a desire to learn through a system distinguished by engaging families as partners for student success, developing individualized learning experiences, having high expectations for all, connecting learning to living through the arts, providing a safe, healthy, and respectful learning environment, and achieving academic excellence through the arts.” For more information about Pine Elementary School, visit

Creative and Learning Process

Throughout the year, students learned basic concepts of choreography from Melli Hoppe, integrating them into other school subjects. Dance and choreography was paired with geography, science, the environment, and visual art. Additionally, students were able to take a field trip to Indiana Dunes to meet with a naturalist. They learned about the plant life and habitat of the Dunes, which helped them gather information to create artwork, poems, and dances based off of their trip. Teachers also were involved in the program, having the chance to attend two different professional development sessions. Two sessions were provided, one on integrating dance into environmental science, and the other on integrating into writing. Both students and teachers were exposed to the benefits of integrating arts into different subject areas and the wide range of possibilities it presents to classroom teaching.