SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Mention poetry and the groans from students are often overwhelmingly loud. However, mention rapping and there is a whole new level of enthusiasm. That’s how “Rappleby” came about for a group of Enrichment Studies students at Spotswood’s Appleby Elementary School who were looking for a unique way to advertise the school store.
As a part of the ESP program, which is taught by veteran educator, Jennifer Asprocolas, fifth grader members run the Beehive, the school store. The staff of 11 includes Jenna Agostisi, Anastasia Awadulla, Cyanne Chan, Kyle Chigas, Donovan Gallagher, Sal Lewis, Armaan Malik, Corey Miller, Anthony Mooney, Christina Soliman and Bobby Waldman. Preparation for the school store began in September and culminated with the grand opening on December 8. The store is open every Thursday during lunch periods with the students working in groups to stock, order, sell and of course advertise.
Appleby has always had a school store in some capacity. Nancy Torchiano incorporated the student element when she was the school’s ESP teacher prior to becoming principal at the Schoenly School two years ago. Asprocolas took over the reins for the Enrichment Studies Program at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. She previously taught fifth grade at Appleby and also serves at the Spotswood School District’s Department Chair for Art, Music and World Language.
Each of the 11 students were randomly assigned roles in one of the four departments, which are rotated periodically through the year. The departments are made up of CEO, Marketing, Finance and Inventory.
Chigas, Lewis, Malik, Miller and Mooney make up the marketing department, which is how the rap idea evolved and the Beehive Five got their humble beginning.
“They decided one day that they wanted to write a rap to advertise the school store,” Asprocolas explained. “They were really passionate about marketing and trying new tactics.”
Their new marketing methods turned to rhymes when the boys were searching for a creative way to make announcements during lunch periods about what was on sale at the Beehive and the Beehive Five was born.
The Beehive Five was briefly the Beehive Six and the group is always open to fellow ESP staffers to join the writing or performing process. Currently, the Beehive Five, which includes Chigas, Lewis, Malik, Miller and Mooney, have two songs in their repertoire and are at work on an album titled “Rappleby.” Mooney coined the title, "Rappleby." On Monday, March 13, they were hard at work on their latest track during their ESP period. The students meet twice a week in addition to running the store on Thursdays during their lunch and recess periods.
While the students perfected their lyrics with the use of RhymeZone.com, their classmates were involved in other aspects of marketing the Beehive. Agostisi, Awadulla, Chan and Soliman were busy creating excitement on social media by fashioning Twitter and Instagram accounts for the Beehive. The girls were pondering developing a blog for the school store as well. Gallagher and Waldman were hard at work designing online posters for the Beehive’s hot-selling Mystery Bags by using the website Smore. Smore is an online venue that helps users shape posters, newsletters and other marketing devices.
When the Beehive Five, which also includes Asprocolas for the newest song, were ready, they tried out their lyrics on their classmates. Agostisi, Awadulla, Chan, Soliman, Gallagher and Waldman provided feedback and suggestions, which included fine-tuning the group’s positioning.
“We are expanding now,” Asprocolas said of the rap repertoire. “The students want to make two music videos to use as commercials.”
Both the popular Mystery Bags and the rap songs have worked. There is quite a buzz surrounding the school store. Students eager for a new rap from the Beehive Five were recently asking Asprocolas when there would be another performance from the group. There has even been the occasional request for an autograph as well as a lunchroom chant for the Beehive Five when the store was open for business last week. The Mystery Bags sold out a couple of minutes into the second lunch period.
“The reason why I secretly like it (the rap),” Asprocolas said. “Is that I think it really helps them with poetry and they don’t realize it. It is interesting how they authentically brought in the concepts of rhyme and meter. They’re being poets and having these real conversations about the technical aspects of poetry.”
Asprocolas has one rule about the rap lyrics, however.
“Their songs have to have a purpose,” she said. “Their purpose is to advertise the school store. The lyrics have to be relevant.”
The Beehive Five was set to debut their latest creation during the lunch periods on Thursday, March 16. As for their album, there are still a couple of months in the school year to finish cutting “Rappleby.” The students are hoping it will generate additional buzz about the Beehive because all of the proceeds from the school store will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children battling life-threatening illnesses.