• Shame, fear, self-doubt, anger, hatred, confusion, helplessness, sadness… these are just some of the words a child may express when you ask them to describe how it feels to be bullied at school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics between 1 and 4 and 1 and 3 children say they have been bullied at school. Children who are bullied may experience depression, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and may also experience a decrease in grades and test scores. Some may even drop out of school all together. The effects of bullying doesn’t stop there, children who bully others may participate in other violent or risky activities such as drug and alcohol abuse, engage in more fights, or get involved in criminal activity later in life. They may also be more prone to abuse spouses or children into adulthood. Bullying has escalated to cyberbullying where many times a person may not know who the abuser is on the other end of the computer screen.

     

  • Bullying can affect people throughout their entire lives. We may not have a solution to bullying, but one local Dance Program is looking to address it head on. Dance Exploration, LLC was founded in 2009 by Jessica Clayton in Lakewood Colorado. The original goal of the company was to provide low-cost educational dance classes to children in Jefferson County Schools. Since then the company has expanded to reach children in eight major school districts across Colorado and has become the leader in after school dance and performing arts classes in the Denver metro area. The company is now based in Parker, CO.

    Dance Exploration’s business philosophy is “Every child should have the chance to dance!” Jessica has made this possible by hosting a fundraiser each year to bring free 6-week dance classes to children in Title One Schools. This year her goal is different. This year she wants to address the epidemic of school bullying head on through a program called AcceptDANCE™. Her goal, in short, is to raise $3,000 through crowd funding and corporate sponsorships to provide the AcceptDANCE™ program to 5 Middle Schools in the Denver Public Schools District during the 2018/2019 school year free of cost.

  • Dance Exploration’s AcceptDANCE™ Class is a Bully Prevention class designed to teach children tolerance and acceptance. The class is centered around the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Willis. The song discusses judgement of others’ and that outsiders shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover; every person has a story to tell. The class runs for 90 minutes over the course of 10 weeks. The AcceptDANCE™ class at Dance Exploration is a Teacher/Student collaboration class where teachers conduct a series of weekly discussions on the difficult topics which may lead to bullying. After discussions, students are encouraged to work in small groups with children of like-minded insecurities or hardships and brainstorm possible solutions to the weekly issue. As a group, they will create a piece of artwork. That artwork may be a dance, a poem, a drawing or painting or a song. They will share their work with the class and discuss how the artwork speaks to them. After the discussions, the class works with the instructors to create a choreographed piece to the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” which will be performed at the final Showcase graduation. Each week a new phrase of the song will be discussed and the teacher and students will discuss each verse, how it makes them feel and how they can incorporate those feelings into movement. The goal of the class is to have children recognize that each of their peers have feelings, each person has insecurities, each person struggles with hardship and each person is different and special. Through recognizing how we’re all different, we can recognize that in the end we are all the same…human beings. As children work and move together in groups, they will build trust, patience, tolerance and acceptance for each other to create their common goal: their choreographed piece.

  • “My goal with the AcceptDANCE™ Program is not only help children learn to communicate their feelings more easily, but to help those children who feel alone or who may feel they have no one to turn to and provide them with an outlet. If I can help those children by exposing them to the arts whether it be dance or poetry or music or fine art….then I feel that I will have given them the greatest gift. I believe that the arts can be extremely therapeutic and if a child doesn’t feel safe or comfortable communicating to adults with their words, perhaps through the arts they can find an outlet through which to express themselves,” says Jessica Clayton the creator of the AcceptDANCE™ Curriculum. “Through programs like AcceptDANCE™ we can encourage our youth to interact with each other in a safe and nurturing environment even if it’s only 90 minutes a day. We hope this program, and others like it, will help children learn to communicate in a positive way with adults and their peers and to feel safe in opening up about their insecurities or hardships. As youth suicide and violent school shootings continue to happen, it is our hope more schools embrace programs like AcceptDANCE™ to address the causes and effects of bullying and help students recognize the warning signs. If nothing else will be done to prevent these tragedies, I hope programs like ours can at least help that one child who is spiraling and provide them with a little bit of hope and happiness through the arts and dance,” she concludes.

  • Jessica has created a GoFundMe account where individual or corporate donations can be made to the cause. You can learn more by following the link below:

  • Sponsor an AcceptDANCE™ Class

  • If you are a Middle School that would be interested in participating in the AcceptDANCE™ Program, please complete the application form.

  • Apply for a Free AcceptDANCE™ Class

  • If you are interested in teaching an AcceptDANCE™ class with Dance Exploration, LLC please email a cover letter and resume to careers@dancexploration.co

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