Each week, the hallways and dance studio at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary STEAM Academy are bustling with energetic dancers, led by the Cedar Ridge High School dance education class.

The student-to-student partnership brings a unique opportunity for Cedar Ridge and Joe Lee Johnson students to work side by side through a fun activity. Joe Lee Johnson fourth-grade students opt-in to the 50 minute dance classes, held during the regular physical education class time. Students in the dance education class learn the fundamentals of leading dance classes in preparation for careers as dance teachers.

“I never had the opportunity for dance classes until I came to Cedar Ridge and I feel like dance is a great outlet to give these kids,” Cedar Ridge junior Maggie Martinez said. “They’re so fun, creative and fearless and teach me new things every day.”

Joe Lee Johnson fourth-grade student Serenity Robertson chose to join the dance class to join her friends and learn more about the “arts” aspect of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). Each week’s class is based on a theme, including math or holiday dances.

“All the teachers are really nice and creative and they find different ways to teach us,” Serenity said. “Of all the schools in the whole District, they came to our school. It’s nice.”

The partnership is a result of Joe Lee Johnson Principal Gabi Niño and Cedar Ridge Lead Dance Teacher Karen Searles collaborating to bring high school mentoring and dance enrichment program to the elementary school campus. Cedar Ridge administration worked with Searles and Niño to create the dance education course specifically for the partnership, which has already influenced students to pursue dance education as a career, Niño said.

“We are so thankful to have Mrs. Searles and her students from Cedar Ridge at Joe Lee Johnson each week,” Niño said. “Art, especially in this case, dance, is an integral component of the STEAM learning model and it’s exciting to see our students learn in a true student-to-student partnership.”