Southdown Primary School fourth graders are increasingly showing they “get it.” Character education and the campaign to exhibit kindness are both succeeding throughout the building. Need proof? Keep reading.
Fourth graders in teacher Kim Myers-Bender’s class felt a desire to go the movies and see the new film, “Wonder.” So they took matters into the own hands and penned a collective letter to Southdown Principal Scott Oshrin.
“Now that we are fourth graders, we genuinely feel we should be included in the field-trip decision-making process,” the youngsters wrote. “There are several reasons we feel we should be allowed to see ‘Wonder’ in the movie theater. Our first reason is since we’re reading the novel, we will learn what separates the book from the movie. Secondly, the movie would be a great tie-in to My Brother, Martin, a story from our Journeys anthology. Lastly, we know that ‘Wonder’ is a fabulous tool to teach character education.”
The screenplay goes like this: “A ten-year-old boy with a facial deformity (Jacob Tremblay) attends school for the first time when he begins the fifth grade,” states an online synopsis of the film. “With the support of his mother (Julia Roberts) and father (Owen Wilson), he learns how to make friends and adjust to his new environment. Meanwhile, those around him learn not to judge a book by its cover. Wonder was directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), and was adapted from the best-selling novel by R.J. Palacio.”
The fourth graders displayed a lot of gumption with their letter, but they were pessimistic it would make much of an impact. Still, they gave it their best shot.
“As we just mentioned, we’re reading the novel in class and we will learn what separates the book from the movie,” the youngsters wrote. “We ‘wonder’ how the novel and movie are different. This could be very educational; we could chart the similarities and differences and use that for a compare and contrast essay. You do know that fourth graders must write a few of those in a school year, right? This genuinely would be the perfect opportunity to do so; not to mention, it would be fun!”
The students went on to explain that the Journeys story, My Brother, Martin was written by Dr. Martin Luther King’s sister. “She talks about the struggles of segregation that their family battled with growing up,” the letter states. “August, the main character ‘Wonder,’ struggles with a different type of segregation and we often make the connection in class. No one should be judged by the way they look! Which brings us to our final point.”
Drumroll please. “We know that ‘Wonder’ is genuinely a fabulous tool to teach character education,” wrote the fourth graders in their letter to Mr. Oshrin. “The theme, or lesson of the story is to never judge a person by what they look like on the outside, because on the inside they could be genuinely Wonder-ful. Would you like people to criticize you based on your physical appearance? We think not. Going to see ‘Wonder’ is important to us. Remember, we are going to fifth grade next year, as a matter of fact the same grade as the characters in ‘Wonder.’ We know our request will be seriously considered. You won’t regret allowing us to go to the movie theater. After all, you are genuinely ‘wonder-ful.’”
The students were correct in thinking that Mr. Oshrin would be skeptical in general. “I’ve never allowed a field trip to a movie, but this was different,” he said. “They didn’t think I’d say yes.” But he did and the students loved every minute of their trip to AMC Loews Shore 8 on Wall Street in the village.
While Mrs. Myers-Bender’s class penned the letter to the principal, all the Southdown fourth graders went along on the trip. The movie has been well received. It tells an important story that conveys timely lessons for folks of all ages. It spurred many conversations in Southdown’s fourth grade classrooms.