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Fallon Middle School Combines Philippine Tinikling Dance with P.E.

September 12, 2016

The spirit of innovation in the Physical Education program at Fallon Middle School continues to burn brightly in 2016. Following our profile on the successful Swing Dance program from last year, we were fortunate to witness a highly unique P.E. program at FMS. Through the support of the staff and administration, a 6th Grade Tinikling Showcase was presented in the MPR on Friday.

Tinikling is a traditional Philippine dance that dates back to the Spanish colonial era. Traditionally, it requires bamboo as a percussive instrument and it is banged against the ground between two people and conducted in rhythm. To complete this ballet, a dancer is expected to dance through and over this cacophony – without damage to his/her ankles. At its best, it is almost symphonic. Handled clumsily, it may have poor results.


Through a kind invitation from Amy Jones at Fallon, we were able to witness the fruits of several weeks of hard work by some FMS 6th graders. Further, we were able to explore this subject more deeply with Physical Education instructor, Marissa Volk, who was deeply involved in getting this program off the ground. While the Tinikling “segment” is not entirely new to Fallon, this was the first year that parents were invited to watch the events in the MPR.

Ms. Volk is in her fourth year of employment at Fallon Middle School instructing in Yoga, Pilates and Dance. Here, she shared some of her observations. Please explain the genesis of how a Tinikling Showcase came to Fallon.

dsc_1230Marissa Volk: “My first year of teaching five years ago in East Palo Alto, I learned Tinikling dance from a physical education coworker during our PE program. After a year at Fallon I was asked to teach Yoga, Pilates, and Dance elective classes and felt that integrating cultural dances like Tinikling would be so beneficial for our students. After one successful year in my dance elective class, Tinikling dance grew to be very popular and we decided as a physical education department to add a dance unit: 6th Grade Tinikling dance and 7th and 8th Grade Swing Dance.  Last year was our first year doing Tinikling dance and this year we decided to invite the parents so that the students could show off their skills in a Tinikling dance showcase during each student’s PE class period throughout the day.” Approximately how long did it take for the students to become fairly proficient?

Volk: “The students spent three weeks learning Tinikling dance during class.  They worked 4 out of 5 days a week (besides the one run day) on developing their skills, learning how to work well with their group, and even adding in their own creative dance steps!” This exercise seemed to satisfy both a multi-cultural aspect as well as a cardiovascular goal.  Please articulate how the students achieved both.

Volk: “Tinikling dance is such a great addition to our physical education curriculum in a variety of ways. Students have the opportunity to learn about the history of Tinikling dance as well as the Filipino culture.  In addition, students learn teamwork, communication, and problem solving skills.  Lastly, the students get to meet some of the physical education standards and develop physical fitness by working on cardiovascular endurance through the jumping and footwork agility during the performance.” Anything else that you would like to add?

Volk: “The 1st annual Tinikling dance showcase had a great turnout from parents, who were very proud of their kid’s accomplishments during the dance unit.  The kids really enjoyed this dance unit and loved being able to add creativity to their dances as well as pick fun songs to perform to!  We hope to continue to make this an annual Fallon Middle School tradition!”

In the most traditional way, bamboo poles have been utilized to conduct Tinikling in the Philippines. In American K-12 education, many schools have adopted the usage of PVC pipes. Ms. Volk indeed employed this method and purchased these supplies on her own. We are confident that both her students and their parents appreciated this glimpse into another corner of the world. Certainly, this was an opportunity to share a cultural commonality.

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