Swing yer partner round n’ round

First Posted: 11/20/2014

DALLAS — It was a rootin’, tootin’ good time for the second-grade students of Wycallis Elementary at their annual Harvest Hoedown on Nov. 20 in the elementary gymnasium.

Through a combined effort from health and physical education teacher Karen Arnaud and music teacher Debbie Pike, the students begin work on the Hoedown as soon as the school year begins.

Arnaud teaches the students the dance moves while Pike goes over the songs.

“I start with very, very basic moves,” said Arnaud. “As far as even way back in the beginning of the school, we work on skipping, shuffling and moves that are all part of the square dances. We don’t start the square dancing probably till about October.”

Wycallis Elementary consists of four second-grade glasses, but Arnaud said she and Pike work with each class individually until about three weeks up to the performance when they have everyone work together.

According to Pike, the Harvest Hoedown has been a tradition for 28 years, and was first done by second-grade students, and only second-grade students, along with their regular classroom teachers going back to the days of Westmoreland Elementary school.

Since then, now special education teachers have taken over the project so students do not lose any scheduled class time with their regular teachers.

Pike said it was the second-grade teachers who started the event 28 years ago for American Education Week, which takes place Nov. 17-21. American Education Week presents all Americans with an opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The week-long celebration features a special observance each day of the week.

“It started with the second-grade teachers,” said Pike. “They put it together for American Education Week and we’ve carried on the tradition for American Education week. The fact that the square dance is our state dance, so it correlates with the standards that we teach.”

Pike and Arnaud have been tag teaming the Harvest Hoedown for 14 years, but Arnaud said it is not just the two of them who play a role in getting the event up and running.

“It’s a collaboration between the classroom teachers and the art teacher,” said Arnaud. “The art teacher helps with the ‘Wanted’ posters. It’s kind of a cross curriculum involvement where it involves second-grade teachers, art, music, health and PE (physical education).”

The students and teachers go all out for the Hoedown, dressing up with cowboy hats, handkerchiefs, bandanas, flannel shirts and denim jeans.

Arnaud said the songs are very old western and she recalls singing some of them as a child herself.

“It’s more like Western Hoedown type,” said Arnaud. “We have bandanas and kids have little toy horses to pretend to ride on. It’s kind of like traditional western folk, like ‘My Homes in Montana.’ I can remember when I was in elementary school those songs were taught, like ‘My Home’s in Montana’ and ‘Home, Home on the Range.’ Kind of traditional songs that have been heard in the past and then we have a couple of other folk songs.”

The students got the chance to perform the Harvest Hoedown twice, once for other elementary students in the morning and then again for parents, grandparents and younger/older siblings in the afternoon. Both performances lasted about 30 minutes each.

Arnaud said the second-grade students always have a good time preparing for, and doing, the hoedown.

“They love it,” said Arnaud. “At first, they’re a little giddy because they have to touch each other, and I have to be a little stern with them, and so does Mrs. Pike, because they’re silly. Once they learn it, then we can have a little fun with it, but they do a super job. There’s a lot to learn between the movements of the dance and the listening and they’re with partners. We don’t assign their regular partner until the week before; we switch it up until then to see what combinations may work best.”

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