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START for Teachers

Check out this video from one of our partner teachers, Miss Cherie Blessing, from Mid Vermont Christian School in Quechee, VT:


START sends passionate, committed Dartmouth student volunteers into local schools to offer an arts-based, creative perspective to teaching. START volunteers develop original lesson plans custom to each classroom and topic in order to help students (and teachers!) engage with the material in new ways.

START is free, and volunteers bring all necessary materials to each visit. Teachers develop a working relationship with each group of volunteers as well as a sustained partnership with START and the Hopkins Center.

Past classrooms have even come to Hanover, either as a START visit field-trip or to build on themes from START. We’ve had 2nd and 3rd graders learning math decorate Howe Library with symmetrical chalk murals, and START volunteers gave a 5th grade classroom a tour after seeing a Hop performance relating to that term’s topic. With START, students expand their thinking and solidify their knowledge through art.

What is Arts Integration?

START stands for Students Teaching in the Arts—we don’t teach art as a separate subject but rather use art as a way to reimagine other subjects in an interdisciplinary approach. Our volunteers teach by, with, and through art, building off the Kennedy Center’s Arts Integration model.

Through arts integration, START inspires and rewards multiple types of thinking, encouraging students to use visuals, voices, movements, and other talents to demonstrate understanding. With projects such as silent skits or collaborative sculptures, students can showcase their knowledge in ways not usually highlighted in the traditional classroom learning.

START aims to excite students’ passion for learning while also demonstrating that art and creative thinking can be applied to almost anything! Arts integration helps students think conceptually and abstractly to solidify understanding. What does an equation looked like choreographed? How can we understand the parts of a story as elements of a song?

Children in Classroom

Teacher Timeline:

  • If you’re interested in START, let us know! We’ll schedule a time to talk, answer any questions, and if you sign on, we’ll work from there.
  • Choose a time for the weekly visits and a topic for the volunteers. While START volunteers do not teach the material, they supplement, reinforce, and re-think the subject for the students. Teachers can provide as much or as little information as they’d like!
    • START visits are 45 minutes to an hour
  • We work to place a group of three volunteers in your classroom, and we’ll confirm your START group before our volunteer training Teachers meet with volunteers and START staff following training to review potential lesson plans, provide information about the classroom, and answer any other volunteer questions
  • START visits begin! Volunteers visit once a week for six weeks. Teachers are in the classroom for every classroom visit to assist with managing the classroom, and teachers can participate in whatever way they feel comfortable!
    • Volunteers share lesson plans with teachers in advance
    • START staff visit twice a term and take photos if permissible
    • Teachers are welcome to give feedback throughout the term

Activity Plan Structure:

  • Hook: A quick activity to get students out of their desks and in the mindset for START!
  • Info Drop: Volunteers help focus students for the lesson by recalling, supplementing, or re-thinking what students already know
  • Imagine: A short imaginary exercise that activates students’ creative thinking and applies it to today’s topic
  • Activity: Volunteers develop creative activities using various forms of art (visual art, theatre, dance, movement, music) to help students engage in the subject, use their knowledge in new ways, and break out of the traditional classroom learning
  • Extend: Volunteers push students to stretch their thinking--what happens when we change the speed of our dance moves? Switch roles in the play? Add lyrics to our beat? Combine our project with our partners? Take something away or add a new element?
  • Flex Activity: Volunteers come prepared with other activities just in case a lesson finishes early or doesn’t go as planned
  • Reflection: A wrap-up of each classroom visit to bring closure, help students connect what they did to their classroom learning, and crystallize their understanding. Here, volunteers ask questions, get feedback from students, and use this discussion as a jumping-off point for the next visit.

Sample Lesson Plans:

Classroom and Topic: 2nd/3rd Grade, Animals

Materials needed: Markers, Paper Plates (~15), Tape, Scissors (or ask if students have?), colored construction paper, flashlights

BIG IDEA: Oceans, classification of animals, layers in the ocean


  1. Hook:
    • Shake Out dance!
    • Led By: Caitlin
    • Time: 2 mins
  2. Info Drop:
    • Which animals live in the ocean? Where can we find them?
    • Discuss layers of the ocean
      • Sunlight (Euphotic) Zone
      • Twilight (Disphotic) Zone
      • Midnight (Aphotic) Zone
    • Led By: Noelle
    • Time: 10 mins
  3. Imagine:
    • How can you turn the paper plates into sea animals? How can we change, cut, color, or transform these? What could we add?
    • Led By: Jessica
    • Time: 5 mins
  4. Activity:
    • Split students in 3 groups for the different layers of the ocean (have examples for each if they struggle to come up with ideas)
      1. Sunlight (Euphotic) Zone
        • Turtles
        • Dolphins
      2. Twilight (Disphotic) Zone
        • Whales
        • Jellyfish
        • Octopus
      3. Midnight (Aphotic) Zone
        • Squids
        • Angler Fish
        • Eel
    • Have students turn their paper plate into an animal that lives in their part of the ocean!
    • Led By: Caitlin
    • Time: 20 mins
  5. Imagine/Activity/Extend:
    • Have the students share their creations and place their plates on a poster with the three levels of the ocean (poster will be made by us)
    • Led By: Noelle
    • Time: 5 mins
  6. Flex Activity:
    • We will filter through the different light settings… Students will act like their animal when the their zone is being represented through light, using just our bodies and not our plates now
    • For the midnight zone: turn off lights in the classroom
    • For the twilight zone: turn off lights in the classroom, but have our flashlights turned on
    • For the sunlight zone: lights on in the classroom
    • Led By: Jessica
    • Time: 10 mins
  7. Learning Reflections:
    • Where is there the most light in the ocean?
    • Where is there the least?
    • Where would it be hardest to catch prey?
    • What characteristics does each animal have at each level that allows them to survive?
    • Led By: Caitlin
    • Time: 5 mins

Classroom and Topic: 2nd/3rd Grade, Math

Materials needed: beach ball and sharpie, instruments

BIG IDEA: Patterns


  1. Hook:
    • Time: 5 mins
    • Leader: Amanda
    • Description: introduce ourselves and START, name game introduction: students say name and math term that starts with the same letter as their first name, using Amanda’s camp song (has clapping/snapping)
  2. Info Drop:
    • Time: 5 mins
    • Leader: Alexa
    • Description: Where do you hear patterns? Move in patterns? patterns in music/dance, keeping beats, basis of rhythm
  3. Imagine:
    • Time: 10
    • Leader: Steffi
    • Description: Basic idea of patterns: pattern dances--class assigns a dance move to numbers 1-6, which we will write on the board. Call out different patterns with student input (1221-1221, 2424-2424, or 135-246-135-246) and dance the corresponding moves as a class. If they get the hang of it, move to more complex, and ask about the relationship between the numbers (odd, even, odd) or 234 (addition) or multiplication (2, 4, 8, 16)
  4. Activity:
    • Time: 15
    • Leader: Amanda
    • Description: pattern songs. Hand out instruments to groups of 4 (one person will be clapping to keep the beat, so no instrument needed). Work as a group to establish a pattern for each instrument, and then combine the instruments together to make a song. Practice the song, rotating parts so everyone knows each part, and then take turns performing for the class.
  5. Extend:
    • Time: 10
    • Leader: Alexa
    • Description: Within groups, increase the speed, slow down, change rhythm (ex: one person per group could change rhythm, others stay same, etc.)
  6. Learning Reflections:
    • Time: 5
    • Leader: Steffi
    • Description: beach ball activity--will write reflection questions on a beach ball, pass around in a circle, wherever your right hand lands you answer the question nearest to your hand.
  7. Reflection Questions:
    • What was your favorite part?
    • How does this activity relate to something you see everyday?
    • What was one thing you learned?
    • What was confusing?
    • What was the most challenging?
    • What didn’t you like?
    • What is something you want to do again?
    • What do you want to learn more about?


Interested in learning more?

Click here for volunteer information, past projects, and a term overview!

Become a START classroom!

  • Email Felicia with your name, school, grade and any other information to start the conversation

Contact Us!

START Senior Fellow

Steffi Colao ’19
Steffi has been with the START program since 2016 and has worked in 2nd-6th grade classrooms teaching anything from the Civil Rights Movement to geometry. She values START as a time to get off campus and to engage meaningfully with the surrounding community, as well as a chance to refresh her 3rd grade math skills. Though a Geography major, Steffi loves painting and can usually be found in the VAC. Steffi joined START as a way to participate in art while not taking studio art classes but soon realized she is also passionate about teaching and education policy. Her favorite START project was creating “stained glass windows” to illustrate radial symmetry. When she’s not with START, her favorite place in the Hopkins Center is the Donald Clafin Jewelry Studio.


Visiting Artist Residency
School Matinee Series
HopStop Family Series
Assembly Outreach
Curricular Connections
Community Venture Initiative