Cinderella is the spring season’s gateway drug for ballet. Have you heard that expression before: gateway drug? We use it in education to talk about the really attractive items in our teaching or storytelling that gets the students interested–interested enough to keep learning even when the material stops being as alive or curious to them.
Cinderella, just like Nutcracker Suite, is in the winter, excites and intrigues children with a beautiful, accessible and bright story that can inspire them through hard ballet lessons for months to come. Imagination is an important part of my work with my dancers. When I began teaching, I had a brilliant Montessori site director tell me “You can say you’re teaching the ballet but…what they see when you say Cinderella is the cartoon movie.” This is why I do a lot of compare and contrast (alike/different) with the children, and I make a point to talk over the difference, because in the difference the children naturally find the nature of the ballet to be different. Eventually they find a lot of pride in knowing the different stories from different mediums. I know it sounds lofty for a child to grasp, but they do. I promise!
I’m sure you have already seen and/or shared the Disney animation Cinderella with your child and I encourage this. Don’t think the exposure confuses them or hinders anything. It’s all learning. And about gateway drugs: we never know just what will excite a child into exploration, but with little hooks like the ones I offer below, hopefully you’ll find a new point of excitement to share with your child and deepen your study and bond using Prokofiev’s Cinderella as a catalyst:-)
Ella gets her mean nick-name from her step sisters because she’s always dirty from cleaning–in particular cleaning the fire place. Cinders are the magic little pops of fire that take flight when the fire burns brightly, and as they’re so special and so fleet, they’re really hard to find videos or gifs of! However, the basics of fire are always of use.
Technology: Wheels and Axles
Most of us have an idea that Cinderella rode to the ball in a PUMPKIN CARRIAGE. It’s a super pretty image and it might be related to a rather french study referred to as “vegetation myths,” but I am no folklore scholar so I won’t pretend.
What I do know, though, is how to make a pumpkin roll and I learned how to do it with a different kind of squash–a zucchini! I’m talking about Wheels and Axles and they’re easy to make into at-home-projects! See below!
Here’s my friend Squeaks again, in a great and developmentally appropriate video on the science of wheels and axles.
Engineering: Clockwise, Counter Clockwise & Gears
I find clocks so soothing. I love the tick-tock noise and the constance clocks are so famous for. Clocks measure time but to do that they involve a system of interconnecting GEARS which work with and inside each other to keep the movement of the clock steady and/or constant.
The first important thing to learn about clocks is the direction the hands move. This direction is called Clockwise (named after clocks) and anytime you see something turning it can either be turning in the same direction as a clock or in the opposite direction as a clock: COUNTERclockwise. The movement of the clock hands has to do with GEARS which move the clock’s arms to help the clock keep steady time. The following video from the Children’s Museum of Houston does a great job offering vocabulary about gears and demonstrations of how they work!
Clocks are not simple machines but can be explained with patience. Below, the curator of horology (clock studies) at the British Museum describes the 5 things that go into the make of a clock. This is probably higher elementary level information, so don’t expect your preschooler to be impressed, but if your dancer demonstrates a real grasp/interest, this is the best place to go!
Last year, I created a system of videos to teach domestic etiquette. I’m sharing a few of these here. Primarily those (which you could certainly follow and learn from at home) on the first elements of proper DINING. Dining begins with table setting so I’m including two videos below: 1. How to fold the napkin and 2. The five uses/rules of the napkin.
Math: Clock Reading and Roman Numbers
There are many lessons, worksheets and other tools for teaching students how to read a clock, but many people don’t think it’s necessary. I do, but I’m not always in the majority, so I give you this short and easy video if you’d like help teaching your child.
Growing up, my family valued education and the classics. The phrase, “The Classics,” is an old expression that lumps together the arts (music, painting, sculpture, literature and architecture) and includes the study of history (when things were created) and appreciation (how to participate in art). In that context, old things like Roman Numerals, are important to learn. However, I don’t push the idea all children or all people need to know the roman numerals any further than you and I might need to read a clock, as that’s our most common application of the numerals. This second grade math lesson is still of use, even to younger children. But a longer explanation of roman numerals follows also.