Expressive movement for kids

We welcome alternative educator extraordinaire Colleen Sears to the blog to introduce herself and her new Expressive Movement program at Casa de Luz, Center for Integral Studies.

Our bodies were meant to move, and we are meant to enjoy being inside them!
—Colleen Sears

Hello, lovely families of Austin! My name is Colleen, and I’d like to tell you a little about myself and my work. For the past 23 years, I have been extensively involved in childcare as well as movement and musical arts. I’ve always been passionate about connecting with people. A graduate of St. Edward’s University in communication studies and a student in counseling and acupuncture master’s programs, I began dancing 31 years ago and working with children 23 years ago.

My most recent accomplishment was assisting in the opening and success of Integrity Academy at Casa de Luz, Center for Integral Studies. There, I created the curriculum for and held the role of mentor for Level 1 (3- to 5-year-olds). Prior to this, I worked professionally in child care via after-school program directing, preschool teaching, substitute Montessori teaching, and in-home care for children as young as 3 months up to 16 years. In 2013 I took a year off of work to focus on dance at Austin Community College, where I studied ballet, jazz and modern dance, choreography, and dance performance.

Though I enjoyed and had success in my experiences at ACC, ultimately, my greatest passion is what I like to call “Expressive Movement.” My definition of this is: movement that involves authentic, personal expression from the soul. It is basically the opposite of technical dance; there is no “right” or “wrong” to this movement. It is movement inspired by the music and what it brings out in the individual, not from an instructor who teaches specific movements.


When: Monday–Thursday, 3:00–5:00pm (later care available if needed)
Where: Casa de Luz, Center for Integral Studies, 1701 Toomey Road, Austin, TX 78704
(Este Room on Mondays & Sur Room on Tuesdays & Thursdays)

Because it is authentic movement, I give each child the space and freedom to move according to what feels good to him or her. The music provided in my classes allows for a spectrum of movements, feelings, and energetic releases.

My theory is this: Children are filled with energy and often don’t have the communication skills that we attain as adults to express how they are feeling; so this class gives them the opportunity to tap into the moment and move in whatever ways their body, mind, and soul wish, without anyone telling them they are doing something wrong. Too often, children are told that they need to “calm down” or what they are doing isn’t “right” in many (but not all) school settings. They need a space that allows them to be their full selves (within physical and emotional safety boundaries, of course).

My intentions and goals for this expressive movement class are the following:

  • Help children connect with their bodies on a deep level
  • Build confidence
  • Help release excess energy and emotions that children don’t have the communication skills to process on their own
  • Provide physical exercise
  • Learn movement, physical expression, and musicality
  • Explore space in relation to ourselves and each other
  • Create a calming effect

Providing a safe space where there is no judgment is crucial to attaining these goals. The only rule of the class is to respect others’ space, bodies, and feelings. It is a very free, welcoming, accepting space for all kids.

I have always had a natural gift of helping others, young and old, to feel comfortable in moving. I have been asked for many years to teach others to dance. It doesn’t feel right for me to teach specific dance moves, but rather to create a safe, comfortable, judgment-free, nurturing space for others to explore their own bodies, emotions, and souls.

On occasion, music according to the chakras will be included to help create balance and grounding. Besides this, the class provides diverse genres and styles of music to inspire different experiences with a flowing, flexible agenda for each class. I usually like to let the children decide what music they would like to hear. If they are at a loss or if some inspiration is needed for music options, I am always prepared with an extensive variety of music to offer them. Costumes and instruments are available to assist with expression, and occasionally children like to create dances and songs to perform for each other!

For questions or to sign your child up for classes (registration available up until noon the same day), please email me at or call/text me at 512-785-8839.

Colleen Sears

An arts-based approach to literacy

In her second contribution to the Alt Ed Austin blog, art educator Heidi Miller Lowell discusses one of the inspirations for the new arts-based literacy program she is co-teaching this fall. You can read more about Heidi’s work on The Austin Artery website and blog, where an earlier version of her essay appeared.

Five years ago, I snuck into a crowded room in a Baltimore hotel, unaware that my ideas about education would be forever changed. Researcher Beth Olshansky became one of my heroes, as she introduced me to a constructivist model of education. I wished someone had taught me writing and reading in such an exciting and low-pressure way.

Beth Olshansky is the author of the book The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art and numerous published articles based on her years of research at the University of New Hampshire. She observed children who had minds filled with vibrant imaginings and stories but who did not like writing and reading.

This arts-based literacy program integrates children’s visual imagery into every stage of the writing process. Classes study the illustrations of famous authors and are introduced to art materials from the first day of class. Unlike traditional methods, this gives students a chance to tap into visual, kinesthetic, and verbal modes of thinking. Many children who have a hard time writing in other classes find that words come to them as they create art pieces for their books.

Children are motivated to finish the entire writing process so they can then create hand-bound books, complete with their own photographs on an author’s page. Each finished book is presented to the class, and the learner is invited to share his or her work in an author’s circle.

Research has shown that the learners in the arts-based literacy program display fuller expression than students in control groups. Personally, I have used this model to teach camps over the last several years, and I have been amazed with the results. Parents and students are often astonished by the quality of work produced in this program.

and The Austin Artery are excited to announce Austin’s very first arts-based literacy program beginning at Four Seasons Community School this fall. The lindergarten and first grade students will spend their Tuesday and Thursday afternoons splitting time between a quiet writing space and the art studio as they produce their own hardbound books and plays. There will even be an option for a limited number of homeschool students (grades K–2) to join me and my co-teacher, Jen Bradley.

For more information on arts-based literacy programs, you might want to check out visit Beth Olshansky’s website. You may also contact me at The Austin Artery for more information.

Heidi Miller Lowell