Teacher Puts Play Equity In Action Through Dance For Second Graders

Nelly Cristales, second-grade teacher at the 32nd Street USC Visual and Performing Arts Magnet in Los Angeles, ensures her students receive healthy activity through high-quality, integrated dance instruction at least an hour weekly during regular school hours.

“Play equity to me means opening doors of opportunity where they don’t exist,” said Cristales.

“Play equity to me means opening doors of opportunity where they don’t exist.”

- Nelly Cristales

Through Kaufman Connections, a community engagement initiative of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, these dance classes are provided to students at the 32nd Street Elementary School. Cristales was also one of the 46 local educators awarded as part of the “Champions Educate Here” legacy program in 2023.

The College Football Playoff Foundation, the Los Angeles College Football Playoff National Championship Host Committee, the LA84 Foundation and the Play Equity Fund established the “Champions Educate Here” program to shine the spotlight of the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium on the impactful work of local educators. It also provided funding and support for their programs aimed at nurturing the academic, mental health, and social-emotional needs of students through sport, play and movement.

All elementary students in the 1st- 5th grade at 32nd Street receive 24 weeks of high quality, integrated dance instruction for one hour per week during regular school hours. Kaufman Connections provides hip hop instruction to over 300 elementary aged students at 32nd Street School, a Title I LAUSD school.

The dance program highlights the history and culture of hip hop – a dance form that was predominantly created locally by youth ages 7 to 11 – to encourage a sense of cultural pride and meaning among young students as they are introduced to dance.

The program is designed to support one primary goal – to improve the quality, equity, and access of dance education.

It also has the following core objectives: To provide students with high-quality, sequential, age-appropriate dance instruction that supports current in-school dance programming; to influence an overall increase in student social, emotional, and physical well-being; to increase classroom teacher understanding of the basic elements of dance (body, space, energy, time) and choreographic process so that they may encourage the extended application of dance in their classrooms.