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May 21 , 2008
CONTACT: Pam Young

Area educators bring hip-hop performances into classroom, during visit to Kickapoo Nation School in Kansas

YPSILANTI — The popularity of hip-hop music is now being used to break down barriers when teaching, math, English, history and other subjects, thanks to educational rapper D.J. Duey, popularly known as Mr. Duey.

            Duey, a sixth-grade teacher in Southgate, recently took his musical talent on the road when he performed for students at a Native American school in Powhattan, Kansas. Educational experts Elizabeth Johnson and Kathy Walsh, and Duey’s producer and record label owner, Andrew Yando, accompanied Duey for the two-day visit April 30-31.

            Johnson is an associate professor of teacher education at Eastern Michigan University, and Walsh is president-elect of the Michigan Association of Teacher Educators. Both Duey and Walsh are EMU graduates who studied under Johnson.

            The 125 students of the K-12 Kickapoo Nation School (KNS) have been listening to Duey’s educational rap music since March and love it, says Johnson.

            Duey performed five songs from his recently released “Class Dis-Missed” educational rap CD and gave free copies to students and teachers. He also rapped while the KNS Drum Circle group played with a hip-hop beat, something that traditionally isn’t done.           

            Duey and Yando worked with the middle- and high-school students to create beats and lyrics that align with the Kickapoo culture.  Students developed CD covers that celebrate and embrace their culture, and Yando discussed how he became a producer, record company owner and young entrepreneur.  He and Duey also shared advice with high school students interested in starting a Native American record label.

            “Because we embrace innovative and creative teaching strategies, we want our students to experience the dynamic intersection between rap and academics,” said Mary Livingston, KNS principal.  “We also want our teachers and parents to have research-based strategies that will help them meet the challenges standardized testing poses.”

            Walsh and Johnson have worked with educators and teachers at several other reservation-based schools serving Native Americans.  While at KNS, they shared techniques for incorporating a hip-hop learning curriculum into the school’s teaching approach.

             “To our knowledge, no other teacher has collaborated on a hip-hop learning curriculum with Native American students, parents and educators,” said Johnson. “We came first, not as teachers, but as learners. This is a culture rich with traditions and pride.”

            “The first obstacle in teaching children is to reach them. Hip-hop dominates youth culture, including Native American youths,” said Johnson a Native American of Cherokee descent from the Red Clay Nation in Arkansas. “During our visit to the KNS, we provided unique tools that the school and parents can use to increase their students’ performance and self esteem. Student achievement scores on math and English have increased when utilizing educational hip-hip as a delivery mechanism for standardized curriculum.”

             Johnson and Walsh conducted professional development workshops to instruct teachers and parents on how to use a “hip-hop and pop-culture curriculum” in the classroom as vibrant tools to “Reach ‘em,” so that teachers can then “Teach ‘em.” 

            They also demonstrated how to embrace and utilize the “Circle of Learning” philosophy within instruction, which builds and maintains a strong personalized student-centered curriculum.

            For more on D.J. Duey’s music, go to www.mrduey.com


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Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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