How Breakdancing Teens Can Inspire Innovation in Education

A few dozen New York City high school students have an after school hustle on the Brooklyn bound Q train. When I leave work everyday, I see a small group of teenagers practicing dance moves on the subway platform at Union Square. They are doing spins, bantering about the school day, and some are counting money.

As soon as the train comes, they survey the size of the crowd on the train, jump in, and then the subway doors close.

Three kids move towards the middle of the crowded subway car.

"It's showtime everybody!"

"What time is it?"

The other members respond, "It's showtime!"

One kid gets the boom box ready while the others assume their positions.

Some hip hop music mix comes through the speakers. The group starts clapping. The show begins.

There's a 2-3 minute choreographed routine of breakdance, unique tricks with hats, and swinging on poles. Senior citizens, mothers with children, young professionals, hipsters, fashionistas all stop and stare at the performance.

They perform these dance moves while the train is moving. It's incredible. Claps are initiated by the youth which prompts claps from subway passengers.

The show is over. One of the kids goes around with a hat, collecting money and asking for donations. They get a few coins. However, in that hat you also see a lot of dollar bills. I'm guessing these kids probably earn $30-40 each after school. Maybe more?

The amount of effort these kids put into their performance and business is impressive... from their ability to command attention and their timing, to the precision of their dance moves on a crowded train.

As a youth development professional, I think to myself, "Why aren't schools teaching more kids about entrepreneurship, time management, teamwork, creativity and empowering them with skills to earn some income?" Their initiative and hustle will hopefully pay off in the long run.

What if more kids were given guidance and mentoring on how to start their own dance crew? What if we flipped the idea of dance crews and taught students about creating web apps, creating public spaces, recycling, or community organizing?

What if there were lessons on planning, execution, presentation and sales skills related to being able get some type of income after school, all while earning school credit? What if this type of effort was taught on a class level? A district wide or systematic level? I definitely don't have the answers but these kids are certainly inspiring me and my work. What about you?

Here's a little video clip I took from some kids dancing on the subway after work.