The raw and kinetic energy of 68 fourth grade students dancing and moving in step while learning made the Douglass Elementary School cafeteria come alive last Thursday.
The students are part of Kids Excel El Paso (KEEP), a non-profit organization that promotes appreciation of the arts while reinforcing classroom curriculum.
KEEP was founded in 2004 as a pilot program in three south El Paso schools and now reaches more than 30 schools and around 3,000 students in the area.
“We teach self-esteem, team work and discipline through music,” program Executive Director Courtney Elam said. “We collaborate with teachers to incorporate what the students are learning into what we teach.”
The program last year focused on teaching students science through song and dance. This year the students are learning reading curriculum by incorporating devices, such as phonics and onomatopoeia, into choreographed dance numbers.
“This program is good because you’re dancing while you learn,” student Luis Cruz said.
The instructors, known as teaching artists, use sign language along with traditional dance instruction to teach the students different routines over the course of two weeks.
The program culminates in a student performance at the end of the second week for parents and the rest of the student body.
“I love to dance so this has been really fun,” student Melissa Colunga said. “We learned different dances and also about sign language and letters. My favorite dance in the Alphabet Soup dance.”
Author: El Paso ISD