Rollins Provides Stage For Voices Inside and Outside Classroom With Movement 515

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Having an impact that extends past the classroom often means speaking to students in new and engaging ways. Being able to create new opportunities for expression can change a student’s life for the better, while also opening a new way of looking at their schoolwork.

Kristopher Rollins
Kristopher Rollins

For Kristopher Rollins and his wife Emily, both Urban Leadership teachers at Central Campus in Des Moines Public Schools, the creation of Movement 515 has provided not only a way to make positive change in the classroom, but also in the community by creating poetry workshops and music and art events that give students a way to express their voices in ways not always available in the classroom.

In today’s Teacher Appreciation Week profile (#ThankATeacher), Rollins describes the creation of Movement 515 and group’s impact on the community in less than 5 years:

Approximately four years ago, Emily Lang and I developed a weekly spoken word writing and performance workshop titled Movement 515.  Movement 515 was created to provide Des Moines youth safe and brave spaces to speak on their personal experiences with the goal of deconstructing the negative stigmas often attached to underrepresented students.  Since its inception, the program has grown to each of the five comprehensive high schools in Des Moines Public Schools, averaging between 60-100 students each week.  Furthermore, six Movement 515 high school youth run a Half-Pints Poetry workshop at King Elementary for students in grades 2-5.  Three times a year, active members put on Share the Mic: Community Voices Creating Change, a spoken word poetry showcase that donates show proceeds to local non-profit organizations of their choosing.  More competitive participants of Movement 515 enroll in our annual Des Moines Teen Poetry Slam which determines our competitive summer team for the Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Festival.

Students after a Movement 515 performance.
Students after a Movement 515 performance.

Next year, Movement 515 will expand to include weekly graffiti writing and breakdancing workshops, alongside spoken word and performance programming.  In addition, the Half-Pints Poetry workshop will grow to include more elementary schools throughout DMPS.  Moreover, participating high school youth will begin working directly with their middle school feeder schools to provide more opportunities for student involvement across the district.  The community continues to be a strong supporter of Movement 515, averaging 300-450 people in attendance at events, and over 1,000 followers on social media.

Movement 515 students
Movement 515 students in the classroom at Central Campus.

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