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Cross Creek Scholars Keep the Rhythm with Beanie Babies as Beat Buddies

Beanie Babies that were highly sought after in the 1990s and might have otherwise been collecting dust in a closet have become coveted again at Cross Creek Charter Academy, helping young scholars keep the beat in music class as Beat Buddies.
Music Teacher Luanne Barnes has used the stuffed toys that were a national phenomenon in the 1990s to help her students develop skills of beat competency and timing.
“This is a whole new concept to use an animal,” she said. “It’s been a ton of fun because the animals come to life for the kids. We do things in class where we’re talking to our animals, asking them questions. It becomes their best friend to have in music class.”
 Cross Creek students show off their Beanie Babies

Barnes has taught at Cross Creek for 22 years and is a regional content leader at National Heritage Academies. She makes sure to establish to the children that while they are stuffed animals, they are considered Beat Buddies in class to keep the rhythm. She said developing beat competency and timing are crucial for young children.
“In the past 25 years, studies have been done which have brought to light how important this is,” she said. “It was found that a child's capacity for rhythmicity and timing helps to build a foundation for their emotional and intellectual development.”
Using Beat Buddies might seem like simply another way for kids to practice beat competency, but the plush, pellet-filled Beanie Babies animals are more appealing to kids. And whereas drums or other rhythm instruments might require taking turns because of limited supplies, Beat Buddies are plentiful.

Cross Creek students show off their Beanie Babies 
“Beat Buddies are a good way to practice rhythm without sound,” Barnes said. “The movement of the Beat Buddies can be felt, but not heard. Sometimes with many students playing drums or clapping together, inaccuracies can be a distraction or can hinder progress for individual students.”

Barnes learned of the Beat Buddies from Artie Almeida during a virtual workshop a few years ago and shared the idea and songs to use with the Beanie Babies. Almeida, an elementary music teacher in a Florida school district for 38 years, has published books of teaching resources for music teachers.

“She is a wonderful resource for creative ideas which involve movement, props, and instruments with children,” Barnes said.

Barnes liked the idea of using Beat Buddies but didn’t put it into action until a fellow teacher’s mother was cleaning her house and getting rid of a bunch of Beanie Babies. Now, they have a new home and a new identity as Beat Buddies.

“It was really exciting to see the kids light up and respond so well,” Barnes said.

About Cross Creek Charter Academy
Cross Creek Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Byron Center, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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