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Center for Engagement and Community Development

Tap to Togetherness

It all began at a Parents As Teachers meeting. Parents As Teachers is “a statewide organization to support early childhood education programs in Kansas with a parent education component,” according to the website (www.parentsasteachers.org).

Bradford Wiles, Assistant Professor in the College of Human Ecology and Extension Specialist, had taken his daughter to an informational Parents As Teachers meeting about a potential program. Julie Pentz, Associate Professor of Dance, presented an idea for bringing families together through tap dance.

Where Pentz had the teaching experience, Wiles had the research capabilities, and soon the engagement incentive grant proposal, Tap to Togetherness, had begun. Tap to Togetherness uses tap dancing as a vehicle to promote stronger family ties between parents and their young children, who range from ages one to three.

The project also involves Parent Educator Janice Schroeder, who had met Pentz through her work with Parents As Teachers. Wiles, Pentz, and Schroeder, or the T3 team, plan to expand the project, going from local, to state, and national levels.

The project began in the spring of 2015. “It’s always a constant process with us,” said Wiles. “What we do is called Participatory Action Research or Community Action Research.” Wiles said his team videotapes every class, and has noted positive results already.

“One of the preliminary ones that we’ve been really excited about is seeing a tremendous reduction in screen time (phone usage) while they’re in the program,” said Wiles.

Developing an app, putting together a manual, and obtaining the research to back all of their hard work up, are just a few of the many things the T3 team has in mind. Wiles said they hope to have a manual completed by the end of the fiscal year. By the end of the second year of the project, they hope to start training faculty.

“CECD… helps us keep our program going in Manhattan while providing the support for us to… standardize this curriculum,” said Wiles, adding that this program fits perfectly with K-State’s 2025 vision.

“This program is everything to me,” Pentz concluded. “It truly is.”

“There’s just nothing quite like helping families learn to have fun together, learn a new skill, and really to build that family resilience,” said Wiles.