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Thursday, December 5, 2013

22 schools express themselves through words, movements during first night of 16th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam!

The Seaton Stingers, Golden Mic champions.

In early November, the Seaton Elementary School DC SCORES team visited Starbucks on Capitol Hill for a special occasion.

The chance for each student to practice performing poetry in front of their peers.

Sitting in a semicircle cradling their complimentary hot chocolates, one by one each student rose, walked in front of everyone, and read their favorite poem. Their peers then complimented them and gave them constructive criticisms on what they could improve. After everyone had performed, Elementary School Program Coordinator Rachel Klepper asked each student to recite a line from their poem while also non-verbally expressing themselves with stomping, finger-pointing and more.

Almost exactly a month later, the Seaton Stingers showed that they clearly benefited from the workshop — putting together a powerful, unified performance to win the Golden Mic Trophy on the first night of the 16th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam!.

Seaton was one of 22 school teams that took the stage inside the brand-new Cardozo Education Campus auditorium — in front of an audience that overflowed into the second level of seats — during an action-packed night that demonstrated the impact of DC SCORES' Power of Poetry curriculum on students.

DC Councilmember David Grosso, a poet himself.
The Westside Poetry Slam! began with the familiar voice of emcee KoM, raising the volume inside the building with a dance contest. Then special guest David Grosso, a DC Councilmember, was introduced. And Grosso, a poet himself, told the students how excited he was to be in attendance and witness their self-expression on stage.

The judges — including special guest Etan Thomas, a former Washington Wizards player and published poet who later during the event shared a poem of his own and handed out trophies at the end of the night — were introduced and then KoM and Cortney Hicks of Majic 102.3 introduced the first team as DJ RBI dropped a beat.

It was showtime.


The Power of Poetry curriculum is 182 pages thick.

During the fall DC SCORES season, two writing coaches at each school take their students on a journey through the curriculum that begins with the basics of brainstorming a poem, then writing creatively, and, finally, performing in front of an audience.

Nearly three months of learning translates into what was seen on stage during the Westside Slam!. Sure, there were some great lines — "I like being a kid because I don't have to pay the bills," said a Garrison student; "If I were president, you would never have to do taxes," said a Raymond poet to thunderous applause — but much more than that, each school expressed themselves as a team and with unified movements.

The Seaton students began their performance with a poem about ending bullying. In a horizontal line across the stage, they leaned back and forth saying together, "Bulling is over, bullying is over!" Their second poem was "I see, I think, I wonder." Spread across the stage, one student would bring up an issue in society, then three different students would describe what they see, what they think, and what they wonder about that issue while using hand movements to illustrate their actions.

There was a perfect cadence to Seaton's performance, and the two group poems flowed right into Rubi C.'s solo about education, which ended with Rubi — and the whole Seaton team — thrusting a fist into the air while yelling, "Go Education!"

Bancroft's Sydney C.
Bancroft's Sydney C. had the most powerful poem of the night, but her words weren't alone in earning her the Shine Award for best individual elementary school poet. Sydney came on stage alone in a white shirt. Then three Bancroft students in their yellow DC SCORES T-shirts walked on stage ... until Sydney stomped her foot and they crumpled to the ground and lay there completely still.

Then four students came on and, again, Sydney put her foot down to stop them in their tracks. This continued until 26 children lay motionless on the stage. That's when Sydney approached the audience and delivered her powerful words about the Sandy Hook tragedy, which took 26 young lives. "It could have been us, it could have been us, it could have been any of us," Sydney said.

She couldn't have set up her delivery better. Sydney's performance helped Bancroft finish in third place.

Marie Reed Elementary School took second place with a performance that flowed flawlessly from one poem to the next. It was highlighted by Egbe E.'s solo poem "Let's Celebrate." Egbe, who is maybe 4 feet tall, stood at the front of the stage and punctuated each word with an expression that completely captured the audience's attention.

"Let's dance around and around and smile," Egbe said, halting to drop the biggest smile on a judge in the front row. That wasn't the only time the fifth-grade girl strongly expressed herself without words during the performance.


The messages were a mix of powerful, enlightening, and humorous throughout the evening — encapsulating all the creativity and freedom of poetry. After all, this wasn't a standardized test.

But there were students from Truesdell Education Campus (the elementary school team) saying with emphasis, "We will conquer the DC CAS!" Truesdell's middle school team won first place for a performance that touched on everything from how a poet can change the world, to why it's so much cooler to read than bully, to the little and big choices in life.

Truesdell Education Campus, middle school champions.
David T. won the middle school Shine Award for his poem about learning from the mistakes of his older family members. Then the rest of the Truesdell Trojans entered the stage and set themselves up in groups — the bullies here, the smart kids there. One by one, each student — dressed to fit their role — approached the microphone.

Carrying a chemistry flask, one student spoke about his love of science, ending with, "I know there are eight planets and we are not the center of the earth," before giving a shout-out to his science teacher. A boy with glasses and a book in hand was next. 

"I read because I want to be able to lead my dreams," he exclaimed.

Students from Tubman Elementary School attacked stereotypes head-on, pulling hoods over their heads and asking the audience if that made them criminals. KIPP KEY students — in their first Poetry Slam! — spoke powerfully about their backgrounds and struggles. 

But they ended one of their poems with this: "I will never be denied."

That was as good a message as any to encapsulate the first night of the Westside Poetry Slam!. No team and no student was denied the chance to express their feelings through words and movements.

And they used plenty of both, showing all they had learned from those 182 pages and Starbucks practices. 

Below is the full list of winners from the first night of the 16th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam!.

Elementary Schools
1st place — Seaton Elementary School
2nd place — Marie Reed Elementary School
3rd place — Bancroft Elementary School
Spirit Award — Tubman Elementary School
Shine Award — Sydney C., Bancroft

Middle Schools
1st place — Truesdell Education Campus
2nd place — Cardozo Education Campus
3rd place — Cesar Chavez Public Charter School - Prep
Spirit Award — KIPP: KEY
Shine Award — David T., Truesdell

See photos from the 16th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam! on our Flickr page.

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