Dance, sing and do their thing! Springfield Elementary School uses a unique teaching model to improve academics


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – At Cowden Elementary School, just off Battlefield Road, they teach the same curriculum as other schools in Springfield.

Just in a very different way.

Enter the building and you will see lots of decorations, flashing lights and teachers using headset microphones to urge their students to get up in their seats, shout, sing or walk on a runway stage to come in front of the class and take over teaching homework.

It’s high energy, fun to watch, and perfect for school kids with short attention spans.

That would be all of them, right?

Each class and teacher has their own unique style to capture students’ attention, but don’t be surprised when you see the physical education instructor wearing a blue afro wig or the students banging on bongo drums or dancing through the floating bubbles produced by a bubble machine.

It’s an innovative teaching method that comes from the Ron Clark Academy, a nonprofit college in Atlanta that has achieved international acclaim, has been featured on several national television programs, and is endorsed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey.

Representatives from Ron Clark Academy were in Cowden on Monday to get a video of the school’s implementation of the system and bring it back to share with others.

“More than 100,000 educators from around the world have come to what was once this old warehouse in Atlanta to learn the methods and techniques we’ve developed working with schools,” said Kim Bearden, co-founder of RCA. “We show teachers how to build classrooms where there is lots of movement, music and a high level of student engagement. We also focus on academic excellence and how you create a climate and culture where students enjoy learning. At this school, they have done an exemplary job of doing just that where students stand up to talk, look each other in the eye, encourage each other and support each other. It really helps create a sense of family and belonging so that every child feels at home.

And the students seem to love the freedom.

“Everyone is loud and I like loud sound,” second-grade student Carson Childers said. “Before, I had a lot of trouble, but now I don’t.”

“It’s great fun because we dance and sing,” said second-grade student Lyrik Cheseng.

“Moving, laughing, squirming and talking are more developmentally appropriate for children,” said second-grade teacher Mary Tilton. “We cannot expect children to sit at a desk for 7.25 hours and not move. What we’re doing now may seem silly, but kids love it and it’s the best way to make sure they’re constantly focused and learning. For example, when they go on stage, it is one of their favorite moments because when they are on stage, they are the teacher and take control of the class. They take it seriously. »

“Research shows that students need 70 to 90 minutes of physical activity per day,” Bearden added. “And they don’t just need it for their physical development, but also for their brain development. So, by getting students moving and being active, they are actually able to learn on a much deeper level. There’s been so much learning loss across the country during COVID and largely because the kids were stagnant, they were sitting at a computer and they weren’t able to do the kinds of things that they can now do during the school day here.”

And while teachers have to spend a lot of time planning their daily presentations that are more like a stage show, Tilton said it’s worth it.

“When I was teaching in a traditional setting, there were days when my alarm clock would go off and I kept hitting snooze,” she admitted. “Sometimes it was a chore to teach. But now it’s so refreshing to have students who don’t challenge you because they’re bored. They are always engaged and always excited. Teachers are leaving in droves because of all the challenging behavior. But when you have students moving, it’s just a whole new level of awesomeness. Not only did it affect me as a teacher, but also as a person.

“We are at a time in this country where we really have a crisis in education because we are losing teachers every day,” Bearden added. “We want to show teachers that school can also be a place they look forward to every day.”

It was Cherie Norman, principal of Cowden Elementary, who introduced the RCA teaching method to Springfield four years ago after hearing Ron Clark speak at a convention in Chicago.

At the time, Cowden was second to last in the academic rankings among SPS elementary schools.

“It hurts,” Norman said. “I knew our school was better than that. But after going to the academy in Atlanta and being greeted with dancing, music and laughter, I realized that all children deserved to be educated this way. Since we started, the children have been happy and learning at a rate never seen before. Last year, we were ranked number one in reading, math, and growth in the entire district. »

Norman, who is in her 30th year of college, says she has never been more excited about her profession than she is now.

“I’m crying more than ever,” she admitted. “I taught for 16 years and there were many touching moments. But now those moments are bigger and more heartfelt. There are many tears in this building but they are tears of joy.

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