School Spotlight: Northport Elementary
Teachers would tell you Northport Elementary School is a special place. “It’s about dreams. It’s about the ability to be anything and everything and here we really push the idea that kids can be anything,” says principal Frederico Rowe. “It all speaks to this idea of no matter who you are or where you come from, you are loved first and foremost. But also, you can walk out of here and be everything you want to be.”

Building confidence and community is important at Northport Elementary, which serves about 650 students in Brooklyn Center, Crystal, and Robbinsdale. It is one of the most diverse schools in the district with 36 percent of students speaking English as a second language. About four years ago, the school became a Turnaround Arts school, a national program that emphasizes the arts as a way to help struggling schools turnaround. Since that time, Northport has been recognized on a national stage as a stellar Turnaround Arts school. “It really turned around our school climate,” says assistant principal Alejandra Estrada-Burt. “It has really helped reengage not only our staff, but also our community and students.”

In the classroom, teachers use art in a variety of ways to teach concepts that span the curriculum. One method to incorporate art is to get students moving and acting out what they’ve learned by creating a “tableau” or frozen picture. “It gets everybody active and it’s a part of that comprehension piece,” says Jennifer Miller, a second grade teacher. “We have students struggling in reading, but they can act out the story and gain a deeper understanding of the story and comprehension.”

Students are also using art and technology to reinforce concepts. In math class, the often intimidating and sometimes dreaded subject of long division becomes engaging with the use of iPads and a stop motion movie-making program. “They have to take their time slowly to work through the process of doing math, so it’s using math, art and technology all in one,” says fourth grade teacher Keri Strusz, who tried out the program with a fourth grade group last year. She says test scores of the students who used the stop motion program were higher than students who did not. “I think it really proves it works.”

Northport has a full time art teacher and music education at every grade level. The spring musical is a much-anticipated event that involves several students. Teachers say you can see students come out of their shell and gain confidence through different types of art. “We spend so much time looking at academics, but we don’t always address the social-emotional side of children,” says principal Rowe. “Turnaround Arts allows the children to be free in who they are.”

Shannon Slatton, reporting
on Twitter: @sslatton

December 28, 2017


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