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School of Family Studies and Human Services

Tap to Togetherness - T3

T3 is a multidisciplinary, engaged, community-based participatory research aimed at building resilience in families through a theoretical and research-based approach to positive family development with tap dance instruction as the vector for family engagement. This multidisciplinary applied, developmental, community-based participatory research and practice project includes faculty from the School of Music, Theater, and Dance (Associate Professor Julie L. Pentz) and the School of Family Studies and Human Services (Dr. Bradford Wiles) at Kansas State University and Kansas State Research and Extension, as well as practitioners with Parents As Teachers in Kansas.

T3 focuses on making available resources for families with children who have not entered the formal systems in their communities (e.g. preschools, organized sports, schools). Families with young children between the ages of birth to five (pre-kindergarten) years old are limited to very few activities, and even fewer are available from ages 1-3. This has been an identified need by the Parents as Teachers Program, which operates throughout the State of Kansas. Their current planning for group connections include weekly playgroups and special programs that attempt to fulfill this community need. Our Parents as Teachers program partners believe that giving its families with young children the opportunity to participate in this program will fulfill a great need in our state.

We take socio-cultural and community-based participatory research approaches to this applied developmental research program. The socio-cultural perspective frames human development as a necessarily social endeavor, with adults serving as the primary means for children’s learning about how to interact with their worlds (Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978). Through applying a technique called scaffolding, this research program provides specific strategies for adult-child interactions to extend thinking and learning as part of participating in the dance program. An applied theoretical perspective called Mindful Mindedness (Wiles, 2013) will be used as a frame to encourage parents and caregivers to think about their children’s thinking while they are learning to dance, as well as to be creative in responding to their children’s contributions to the activity, in this case, tap dancing.

This program leverages the expertise of Kansas State’s most accomplished professors of dance to construct meaningful opportunities that contribute to all facets of child development. Moreover, framing this program within a comprehensive family and child developmental framework provides opportunities for families to engage with their children with specific, evidence-based guidance on facilitating positive learning and social outcomes for children, both with adults and same-age peers.