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Feb 29, 2012 4:24 PM by Drew Trafton

Hip Hop camp brings new energy to school

BILLINGS- Before class began on Wednesday morning at Broadwater Elementary School in Billings, blaring music and shouting could be heard from within the building.

Further investigation revealed a group of about 35 5th and 6th graders dancing away in the main hallway of the school.

However, the Broadwater Elementary principal, Joe Halligan, wasn't concerned about the raucous taking place.
In fact, it was his idea.

"It's kind of an unorthodox way to start the day," said Halligan. "We've seen some great things with just the kids' energy level and getting ready to start the day."

The pilot program is being called the Hip Hop Winter Camp and is a partnership between the school, Alberta Bair Theater and the Rimview Dance Academy.

The intent of the program is to keep students busy during winter months where the school's running clubs are suspended because of winter weather.

Due to size limitations, the 8 week long program is only available to 5th and 6th graders at the school.

The students are required to show up by 7:30a.m. twice a week to learn new dance skills and choreographed numbers from instructors of the Rimview Dance Academy.

Halligan says, so far, the school has seen attendance rates and grades rise during the camp along with a decrease in behavioral problems.

"It's exciting to watch these students improve," said Dr. William Mouat, Director of Education and Outreach at the Alberta Bair Theater. "They are proud of what they do and it is spilling over into other areas of their lives. Studies show that students who participate in exercise and activities and students who are exposed to the arts do better in school and life skills. It is one thing to read the studies, but it is an amazing experience to actually see it happening in front of your eyes."

However, the students aren't the only ones benefiting from the experience.

"They're laughing constantly," said dance instructor Chelsea Nelson. "I once read that children laugh over 400 times a day, and so, every time I leave here I have a lot of energy-- even at 7 o'clock in the morning."

The early success of the program has Halligan and the Alberta Bair hoping that, through grant work and community support, they'll be able to develop the program in coming years.

"Not just at Broadwater, but at really at any other school that wants to do it," said Halligan. "It's an amazing program."

The current group of students participating in the camp will perform on March 15th at Broadwater Elementary during the Principal's Pasta Dinner family night at Broadwater School.

That dinner starts at 5:30p.m. .

To see the group of students in action, click on the video above this story.

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