Anyone who’s met Debbie Lindgren is likely familiar with her bottomless exuberance. Lindgren, physical education teacher at Naval Avenue Early Learning Center, is a die hard advocate for giving kids more chances to be active in each day.
Lindgren is quoted in a story I did for today about the importance of recess for students’ bodies and brains.
She tries every which way to get youngsters moving. In one example, she brings recess to the classroom with “brain breaks” like full-body rock-paper-scissors students can do beside their desks. Teachers at Naval Avenue are now trained to lead their students in short bursts of activity that stimulate circulation and give kids a breather.
Lindgren’s latest get-moving scheme involves hip hop dancers,
lots of them. Lindgren arranged for all first through third graders
to learn a dance choreographed by Erica Robinson, a co-owner with
her husband Ashley of the Kitsap Admirals basketball
team. The students performed the dance en masse at the
Admiral’s game Saturday.
Lindgren got the idea for a school-wide hip hop dance because of her sense that some families, in particular African American families, feel a disconnect from the school.
“At first it was just, ‘What can I do to make sure we are inclusive of every culture at our school?'” Lindgren said.
Dance seemed a good place to start.
“It appears to me that our African American kids have more
opportunity, perhaps, outside of school to dance within their
family structure, because they come into this with better
background in dance than the majority of Caucasian students,”
Lindgren said. “In PE classes when the music turns on, our African
American kids, the majority of them, their movement patterns are
exceptional. … I thought, what can I do to celebrate their dances,
their movement, their creativity?”
Robinson is a member of the Admirals dance team the Flight Chixx. She grew up on Soul Train and affirms Lindgren’s gut feeling.
“If you think about African Americans in this culture, you think about hip hop, you think about break dancing,” Robinson said. “Some of the greatest dancers in the country have been African American.
“I think music and dance is just the way you connect,” she said.
Think of the choirs in African American churches. Music is everywhere in black culture and always has been, Robinson said.
“If you look throughout history, you see that music has really resonated with the African American community,” she said. “Music is something that has helped us through the hard times.”
Robinson appreciates Lindgren’s impulse to shine a spotlight on the hip hop genre.
“Coming from the East Coast, we had a lot of things that celebrated black culture, Puerto Rican culture,” she said. “In Kitsap here, we don’t find a lot of that celebrated culture. There’s a lot of quieting and shunning. In celebration, if we take the time to embrace each culture, we’ll find that as a human body, we’re all the same.”
Teaching several classrooms’ worth of students a single dance was no small feat.
“You just kind of teach it in pieces,” Robinson said. “The kids pick it up a lot easier than you think. … They wanted it.”
The performance was a hit with parents.
“We had a great turnout of kiddos. It was awesome, great support,” Lindgren said.
Kurt DeVoe, photographer for the Kitsap Admirals, shared these
photos with the Kitsap Sun. Lindgren’s husband was the