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START for Volunteers

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


START is an arts integration program where volunteers develop and teach original, creative lesson plans to supplement classroom learning. Using theatre, dance, music, and visual art, START volunteers transform traditional classroom subjects in a way that engages students imagination and encourages them to think differently.

With START, students expand their thinking and solidify their knowledge through art, showing off skills not usually activated in a traditional classroom setting. Volunteers develop sustained relationships with schools in the surrounding area, getting off campus and giving back to the local community. Through START, our volunteers learn how to lead a classroom, think on their feet, and be flexible through just about anything the kids can throw at them!

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?

Student Volunteer

Hear From Our Volunteers:

START is a great way for me to get involved in the local community. At Dartmouth, it can be easy to forget that there's a world outside academics and students my own age, but START gives me the opportunity to work with young kids who are passionate about arts and learning, reminding me that there are all kinds of ways to express passion and to learn new things! The kids are so inspiring, and I'm so grateful to have them brighten my day, and I hope I do the same for them! —Jessica Weil ’21

START has definitely been one of the most unique and fulfilling activities I've been a part of at Dartmouth so far. It's a great opportunity to get off campus, think creatively, and make a real impact on children in the Upper Valley community. Getting the chance to have fun and act silly around kids is always a plus, too! —Elizabeth Janowski ’21

Volunteer Timeline:

  • Prospective volunteers fill out an application the term before they want to start teaching. If you’re a first year student, you can apply as early as your freshman fall to be placed in a classroom for the winter.
    • Follow-up interviews are also conducted the term a prospective volunteer applies
  • If you’re active for the term, we work to place you in a team of 3 volunteers and pair you with a classroom based on your schedule and volunteer availability.
  • Attend training Week 1 of the term. New volunteers must also attend a new volunteer training in addition to the all volunteer training dinner.
    • At training, we’ll go over classroom management strategies, designing arts integration activities, teaching to different ages and stages, and any questions you might have! You’ll also have time to brainstorm lesson plans with your group and get feedback from all the volunteers.
  • After training, volunteers meet with their teachers to review lesson plans, learn about their classroom, and ask any questions they might have.
  • Volunteers meet with START staff before their first visit to finalize plans before heading into the classroom.
  • Visits begin! Volunteers teach once a week for 6 weeks (usually Weeks 3-8 of the term)
    • Lessons are 45 minutes to an hour, and all classrooms are within 30 minutes of Dartmouth
    • START staff visit classrooms twice a term and meet with volunteers halfway through the term to check-in
  • Attend a final reflection dinner Week 9, where all the volunteer groups reconvene, reflect, and give short presentations about their 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.

Children in Classroom


Do I need to have a car to do START?
No, but it’s great if you do! START staff coordinates all transportation and will drive volunteers to each visit, but if someone in your volunteer group has a car, is willing to drive, and is driver certified, that is also an option for getting to schools. We make sure everyone can get to their classrooms no matter what.

Do I need to reapply each term?
Nope! Once accepted, START volunteers are full volunteers and never have to reapply. We will ask you every term if you would like to be active for START that term.

Do I have to have arts/education experience?
No! While START attracts people from both of these disciplines, we welcome volunteers from a range of experiences! We’ve had studio art majors who had never considered teaching, aspiring teachers who were curious about arts integration, and people who just love kids and wanted to volunteer! START looks for volunteers who are energetic, committed, and passionate about the program--we’ll go over the rest in training!

How do I increase my chances of being placed in a classroom?
Volunteer placement depends on both your availability and the teachers’ availability. Volunteers who have longer stretches of time (2-3 hours) available during the traditional school day (9-3) are easier to place, and most of our teachers prefer afternoon visits. While classroom times change term to term, volunteers who have at least two afternoons free a week are the most likely to be matched with a classroom.

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 sample lesson plans, past projects, and a schedule overview!

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.


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