Marcia Daft (left), founder of the Moving Through Math program, and Shawna Tanner (right), work with Brody Davis on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at the Fowler Early Childhood Center. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Students sitting on their colored carpet squares in Shawna Tanner’s pre-K classroom moved their way through a math lesson Thursday with an arts integration instructor from Washington, D.C.

Through a longtime partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Enid Public Schools and the Enid Arts Council, early childhood students and teachers this week engaged in a new research-based program that teaches math through music, drama, storytelling, visual literacy and creative movement.

Movement Through Math, which aims to develop conceptual thinking in mathematics to go beyond rote memorization, was developed by Kennedy Center instructor Marcia Daft.

On Thursday, Daft visited classrooms at EPS’ Carver and Fowler Early Childhood Centers after spending all week in Enid.

Before the lesson began, Daft sat down with the attending teachers to explain her instruction concepts and processes. Multiple teachers sat in on the class instruction as Daft and an EPS instructor guided the students through participatory math lessons.

The training is usually held twice per year, during each semester. Two weeks are spent on pre-kindergarten and kindergarten instruction.

The MTM program has been taught to teachers and students in Enid Public Schools for the last four years at Fowler and Carver, as well as nearly all EPS elementary schools, including Eisenhower, Garfield, Hays, Monroe, Taft, Adams and McKinley.

Randy Rader, EPS assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the district’s partnership with the Kennedy Center was prestigious.

“One of the requirements of the program is for us to work with one of their artists every year. We wanted to have continuity with the program,” Rader said. “This program gives us something to focus on year to year, versus moving from one concept to the next.”

The training and curriculum is volunteer-based. The principals at the elementary schools decide if that style of teaching is a good fit for their teachers and students’ needs, and go from there.

From what Rader has seen, both teachers and students enjoy the lessons and expressing themselves through the arts.

The curriculum outlines how the teacher’s role can shift from lecturer/demonstrator to an observer/guide role. In this different style of teaching, educators are able to invite children to investigate and explore.

The purpose of this approach is to deeply develop students’ creative and analytical thinking skills. The language and habits of math are given to students in small, logical bites.

The partnership between Enid Public Schools, the Enid Arts Council and the Kennedy Center began in 2005, and Daft has been coming to Enid for years.

Only two partnerships exist in Oklahoma with Kennedy Center, including Enid’s. The other Oklahoma partnership is with the Black Liberated Arts Center, the Oklahoma City Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma, which began in 1995.

The Partners in Education Program of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is designed to assist arts organizations throughout the nation develop or expand educational partnerships to provide professional learning in the arts for teachers, according to their website.

The Greater Enid Arts Council sets money aside yearly in partnership with EPS to bring Daft to Enid. The local nonprofit is one of the dozens of public school and arts organization clients Daft works with across the country as a workshop presenter for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Daft presents her program in both English and Spanish, as previously reported.

Enid Arts Council chairperson for education, Denise Blume, helps coordinate the partnership with EPS and the Kennedy Center. Blume spent 24 years as an educator and 11 years as a math specialist.

“Daft is the finest math educator I have ever seen, and I have seen a ton of them,” Blume said. “We are working with incredible people at EPS, and Daft puts them through a lot of training and hard work. Donors to art council fundraisers should know their money is being well spent in funding this partnership.”