Cranberry uses music to motivate

“You’re working out what?” asked Cranberry Phys ed teacher Ernest Keller.

“HEART!” yelled back the gym full of fourth graders.

“Our heart muscle, EXACTLY!” he shouted back.

Today, I visited Cranberry Elementary School because I heard they were combining athletics with the arts. Music teacher Sarah Creighton and physical education teacher Keller, with his student teacher Noah Jones, combined their 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes into one and met in the gym to learn about music beats and rhythm while aerobically working out.

It was pretty cool.


One teacher said to me, “It looks like you’re having as much fun as the kids!”

I was. This was a real activity and, for the most part, the kids were more focused on the activity than they were me. I could search for faces having fun and found I could do it sorta dancing around myself.


Why I thought this was fun wasn’t just because of the music and activity. I see the importance of these kinds of activities and combining seemingly opposites together. I tend to look for the gestalt in everything. How if you look at the big picture, how everything functions together to make up the whole, you see that athletics and art are equally important facets of life and education. Just like science and philosophy, math and home ec are important.


And learning is fun.

It really is. At all levels, learning something new uplifts us.

And we all learn at different speeds and our interests are varied. No one curriculum, no single course or class plan will work for everyone.


Good teachers try different things in hopes of reaching more students. Motivating them to learn in areas that might spark someone to suddenly engage where perhaps they weren’t before. Most teachers I’ve met struggle with themselves over the students they can’t seem to reach.

I know I had teachers when I was in school that surely struggled, wondering how to get through to me. Heck, all I wanted to do was play sports. Reading was difficult and slow for me, math beyond basic math seemed like reading hieroglyphics and I wasn’t someone who took kindly to orders.


I needed a spark from a teacher or class. And this athlete found it surprisingly in the last place I thought I ever would (not knowing I was really looking for it though) … in art class.

Watching these teachers today taking an idea that is outside the box and trying it and maybe reaching some kids in a different way was just fun for me.


I think teachers are so important to a growing society. The good teachers are the ones responsible for every one of the achievements of mankind. Without them, our best minds would simply rot (My shout out to Howl there!).

So, today I photographed this class and followed up on some other teachers motivating their students in a fun way that we missed last week and wrote the following story.


Here is the story: Cranberry High School and elementary school have been using music to get their students involved with something more than just jamming or chillin’.

The elementary school has been combining their music classes with their Physical Education classes to get the kids heart rates up while keeping beat to the music with syncopated movement and drumming.

PE teachers Ernest Keller and Noah Jones, along with music teacher Sarah Creighton, have been using exercise balls and drum sticks to teach Fitness Drumming to their 4th and 5th grade classes all this week.


They play songs with strong rhythms and tempos while the students follow the lead of their teachers drumming on the ball while dancing. Students take turns drumming but continue to rhythmically dance to the music when not drumming.

According to Keller the exercise covers many of the fitness activities used in everyday life such as balance, strength and cardiovascular endurance while the music concepts of beat, rhythm and tempo are essential parts of music education at this level.

Check out a little bit of the fun they are having.

At the high school, choir director Preston Yoder created an in school fundraiser to cover transportation costs for an up-coming choir competition in Pittsburgh. He enlisted the help of his fellow teachers who agreed to sing karaoke during lunch to help raise money.

Students could buy a vote for a quarter or get five votes for a dollar to nominate a teacher to sing during lunch.

Last week, a handful of high school teachers got up and sang songs like Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” sung by Jason Kosminski, and Principal Ritt Smith singing Big Joe Turner’s classic blues song “Flip, Flop and Fly.”

The effort raised a little over $150 dollars toward expenses for the choir’s competition on May 13. They are planning other fundraisers for the rest of the expenses.

Cranberry’s Productions Class recorded the performances and shared them on their YouTube channel and across social media. Visit to see the videos.

It’s fun to see the teachers put themselves out there for their kids.

Thanks teachers! Thank you, Ms. Moore, Mr. King and Mrs. Thompson for, without realizing it back in the early 1980s, sparking the flame in the lantern that has led me down the path of a good life in the arts. It allowed me to meet these young bright faces today having some fun and learning about keeping beat to the rhythm of the music (still not sure I could even do that!)  Without that spark you helped me locate, I’m not so sure I’d be here today. Certainly not smiling.