Giving Back: Stomp the World

Learning should never be limited to the classroom—exposure to new and different things can provide some of life’s greatest lessons. That idea is fundamental to the mission of Stomp the World. Created by local educators, the nonprofit serves students in preschool through high school in the greater St. Louis area through dance and movement classes, tutoring, after school programming and field trips. We talked to founder and executive director Mark Cohen about how Stomp the World brings exciting new experiences to local students.

What is the mission of Stomp the World?
Our goal is to provide educational and life experiences outside of the classroom. We work with kids in preschool through high school. For early childhood, that means movement and dance classes that help them build important skills we hope they can carry to elementary school and beyond. For older students, we offer tutoring and after school programs as well as organizing local and out-of-town field trips.

Where did the idea come from?
I’m a teacher, and after talking with other educators who have worked in urban school districts, we realized many of our students hadn’t had the opportunity to experience things outside of their own neighborhoods. Originally, it started with the dream of facilitating global field trips so students could learn more about the world, but as often happens, the reality of money set in. We decided to focus on giving them new experiences right here in St. Louis, and we’ve also had some trips to other cities. The name Stomp the World comes from that founding desire to get kids out of their neighborhoods to experience the world.

How did your experience as an educator shape Stomp the World?
I’ve gone on a lot of field trips as an educator. I know what students typically get to experience. Some of them are fun and eventful, but I just wanted to be able to take it a step further. For example, I’ve always wanted to have my students experience the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Through Stomp the World, we’ve gotten to take students to the museum. Working with kids, sometimes it’s surprising to learn what they haven’t been exposed to. Even something as simple as going to a Cardinals game can offer something new. Our after school program also developed from experience in education. There are so many great programs out there, and knowing what they have to offer from a teacher’s perspective provided insight into what Stomp the World could do to bring different opportunities.

How has your programming evolved?
The original idea was to do field trips, but we found a challenge in working with children who weren’t our own students. Without that connection, there was no reason for parents to want to send their children on a trip. We developed tutoring and after school programs to make that connection with families and find participants so we could offer the experiences we originally planned.

Are there any initiatives you’d like to spotlight?
Our early childhood movement program has really taken off. It started because our assistant director, Kevin Lee, has a dance background. He was leading classes in schools, and after talking with early childhood educators, we created our own curriculum that incorporates conscious discipline and self regulation. We now work in several early childhood centers in the St. Louis areas. The kids love it. We usually visit once a week, and they’re always excited to see someone from Stomp the World.

How can people support Stomp the World?
We are basically an all volunteer-run organization. While we do receive some small grants, we are definitely grassroots and rely on the generosity of people through donations and fundraisers. We also have a need for volunteers. Our tutors are all teachers or retired teachers, and they volunteer their time. We’re always looking for people to help out with that.

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