“Allow learning to count wherever it happens and for that learning to connect across the different institutions that are responsible for our young people,” Yowell said.
She was introduced to the school district by a one of its famous graduates, Grammy Award-winning artist John Legend.
“John went from this kid who thought he was good at math to having the influence of his choir teacher and his English teacher … who told him he could write and express himself,” said Kim Fish, director of communication for Springfield schools.
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Legend saw how transformative a teacher could be in his life, Fish said, and that’s one of the reasons he supports teacher education.
Collective Shift noticed students pay a lot of attention to pop culture, Yowell said, so they use it in the classroom. Teachers were taught in the workshops how to use these methods. For example, teachers had to create a rap song and with it, the melody, beat and lyrics.
The YouMedia center has its a sound recording booth and it was used to help with the demonstration. These methods get students’ attention and keep them engaged, Yowell said.
Another approach is community problem solving. Kenya Andorfer, a fifth-grade teacher at Warder Park-Wayne Elementary School, said real issues, like drugs, are used in various subjects like government and history.
“They had to come up with solutions, they had to research heroin in our community,” Andorfer said.
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Students talked to government officials and tried to figure out if their opinions really mattered, she said, and if they could make a difference.
They also made ribbons for drug awareness and a local restaurant let them post the ribbons inside so people could see, read and learn about what they were doing, Andorfer said.
This new way of teaching has benefited her classroom, she said, and attendance and grades have gone up.
There are 40 YouMedia centers in the U.S., Yowell said, and more on the way.