A splash of tropic sunshine

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  • Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Fifth-grader Annie Kate and her classmates practice hula dance moves during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

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    Bria Zan Thompson leads a group of fifth-graders through a hula dance during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

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    LOREN BENOIT/PressThird-graders Logan Hanson, center left, and Jasmine Reasor make leis out of tissue paper during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

  • Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Fifth-grader Annie Kate and her classmates practice hula dance moves during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

  • 1

    Bria Zan Thompson leads a group of fifth-graders through a hula dance during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

  • 2

    LOREN BENOIT/PressThird-graders Logan Hanson, center left, and Jasmine Reasor make leis out of tissue paper during class on Friday at Sorensen Magnet School.

Students at Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities are in the middle of a two-week trip to Hawaii.

This year’s artist-in-residence, Bria Zan Thompson, is bringing Hawaiian dance, legends, natural environment, culture and language to Sorensen.

“There’s a lot going on and the kids are taking it all in — they’ve been so open to it,” Thompson said. “This school has been so open to this opportunity and to the Hawaiian culture.”

Thompson grew up on the island of Maui in Hawaii and found her passion for dancing. She studied hula, jazz, modern and hip-hop dance and earned a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

She now teaches hula and other styles of dance at after-school programs and through the Coeur d’Alene Recreation Department with her company, Lokahi Dance.

The artist-in-residence program at Sorensen invites an outside professional to supplement the existing arts-integrated curriculum each year. The program is funded by the school’s Magnet Fund Committee led by parents with community and teacher involvement.

“The students always benefit from [the program],” said Brett DePew, the school’s principal. “They get a valuable, memorable experience.”

Thompson is teaching students different hula dances that will culminate in a big production at the end of next week.

Each grade plays a specific part in the dance. Hula is a way of story telling and preserving history and culture, so different dances mean different things. The kindergartners are doing an ocean dance while other grades are learning dances about the state fish, tree snails, volcanoes and turtles.

Thompson has also helped teachers incorporate their grade’s topic into the classroom by helping them with some of the legends, providing reading materials and helping them with correct pronunciations.

One art class got to decorate paper surf boards and the third-grade classes took a closer look at the dynamic between invasive species of snails and snails that are now endangered on the islands.

“It’s been fun to take a bit of a vacation from what we normally do to experience Hawaiian culture,” said third-grade teacher Heather Schreiber as she helped her students make leis from tissue paper.

“I have students that have been to Hawaii and they love sharing their stories and I also have students who want to go to Hawaii and they are really excited about it.”

Addie Memmer, a third-grader in Schreiber’s class, said her favorite part of learning about Hawaii has been the hula dancing.

“I just really like the movements,” she said. “I’ve also learned that some dances are only for the girls and some are only for boys. And every year the islands move 1 inch closer to Germany.”

The final dance performance will be held in the Sorensen gym Friday, Jan. 20 at 1 p.m. All parents and community members are invited.

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