Character education is important for students on every grade level. Human Relations Day at J. Taylor Finley Middle School put a new twist on it this year.
Finley Principal John Amato and about 30 teachers began working on a new character education experience for students last year. “The belief was that students are inundated with messages from the news, pop-culture, social media, etc. that can be confusing and sometimes disturbing,” Mr. Amato said. “We wanted to create an experience for students designed to discuss the diverse world in which we live.”
The initiative began with a professional development session during which teachers brainstormed ideas in small groups. “From those ideas, we chose four activities and created one day on which we dispensed with the core subjects and pens and paper and had a great day of discussion and group activities,” Mr. Amato said. “We started with the Ravens team in seventh grade. We also invited the high school students from the Participation in Government class taught by Joe Leavy. They participated in and facilitated several activities.”
The day’s activities included:
• Human bingo. “It was an activity designed to have students interacting with students they do not usually talk to during the school day,” Mr. Amato said. “Students asked one another questions and filled in the bingo card based upon the answers.”
• A discussion and reading about a true story of vandalism on Long Island. “The story focused on how a group of vandals destroyed the property of a hard-working family because they were of a specific ethnic group,” Mr. Amato said.
• Is anyone better that anyone else in this world? A discussion on people, race, ethnicity, homelessness, athletes, pop-culture icons, etc.
• A team building activity. Students first learned about one another by dividing themselves into groups based upon specific criteria. They began to see similarities and differences in everyone. There was a group activity that focused on building a structure out of index cards.
“We are planning our next Human Relations Days for December,” Mr. Amato said.