South Orangetown Central School District

For the past two months, co-teachers Jaimie Ehardt and Alison Costello and their students have been talking a lot about giving. After researching organizations, such as World Wildlife Fund and UNICEF, the conversation shifted to what students would give to help the world–and several students were inspired to talk with their parents about contributing to a cause they cared about. “Leading into this month, we spoke about how the ‘little things’ mean more than all the money in the world. And that got us thinking about people…the people who mean more than gold to us,” explains Ms. Ehardt.

Their class discussion has led to self-reflection and self-empowerment. Students created crowns listing the qualities they love about themselves — with room for their teachers to add a quality they love about them, too. “Our favorite part was the end of the lesson because as our students wore their crowns, they became concerned at the thought of those without a crown (in the hallways etc) feeling ‘un-special.’ So we typed up the lyrics to a song we had been listening to and pasted it on the backs of each crown for the other kids in school to see: ‘This is for all the boys and girls of the world. No matter what you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold.’”

Assistant Principal Maggie White notes that this kind of work is happening school-wide. “Projects like this, through which students are building awareness of themselves in relation to the world, are exactly what our social emotional learning approach is about. We try to build empathy in our students and what better way to do that than to have them consider relevant and developmentally-appropriate social issues,” she says.

Students with crowns