LEHIGH ACRES, Fla.- Fifth graders at Lehigh Elementary School are learning the art of ballroom dancing, but there are many other lessons that come along with it.
The school is part of the Lee County School District's Dancing Classrooms program. The Foundation for Lee County Schools hosts the program in seven Lee elementary schools, watching the program grow since 2008 to now reach more than 600 kids.
The cafeteria stage becomes a studio and sneakers turn into dance shoes as the kids learn different styles of dance.
Teaching artist Steve Wilcox says it's about a lot more than just dance moves. It teaches the kids manners, respect, and that they are all on the same foot. He says, "it's really gratifying to see them, getting them into dance frame the first day and then actually dancing with a partner is a little bit of a fight. Everyone's got cooties and no one wants to touch. By the end of 10 weeks they dance upright and elegant and frame isn't a problem, it's very rewarding." He adds, "I think the music speaks to a lot of us in ways that words don't always successfully do."
Marshall Bower, CEO of the Foundation for Lee County Schools, says, "We've seen and heard from our principals that students who go through this program do better behaviorally in school, do better on their grades and they do better socially with their friends. It teaches our kids how to treat each other like young ladies and young gentlemen, it instills in them a sense of pride, dignity, it does all of the wonderful things that dance does plus all of the social things."
The goal is to put the program in every elementary school, which comes at a cost of about $5,000 each.
To learn more about the program, and the Foundation for Lee County Schools, visit http://www.leeschoolfoundation.org.
At the end of the 10 week session, the schools will all come together for a competition called 'colors of the rainbow' on April 13th at the Miromar Design Center.