To kick off the first week of school, South Orangetown Middle School eighth graders have been working on building relationships with their classmates in Chris Rastelli’s Character Education class. Each day throughout the first week, students participated in activities and games that helped them learn more about each other.
The activity of the day on Friday was called “Worried or Excited.” When explaining the purpose of the lesson to the class, Rastelli said, “There are over 600 students that go to this school and 15 of them are in this classroom. This will give you the chance to see what is happening in the lives of people that are right in this room. I want you to have empathy for one another and understand what people may be facing.”
For the activity, students anonymously filled out two pieces of paper: one with something they are currently worried about and another with something they are looking forward to. Rastelli then collected the papers and put one “worried” piece of paper and one “excited” piece of paper on each desk for the students to go around the room and read what their classmates wrote without knowing who it belonged to. After going to each desk, students had to find one thing that someone wrote that they connected with—ranging from worrying about sports tryouts, to excitement about seeing their friends following summer break. Rastelli ended the class by having students stand in two parallel rows and asked them to answer questions including what their favorite food was, the last movie they watched and what do you offer in your personal relationships with your friends and family. After each question was asked, students would take turns answering the question with the classmate that was standing across from them and had the chance to learn more about them and to see just how much they had in common with each other.
The Character Education classes offered at SOMS promote the well-being of all students by focusing on themes of respect, personal growth and how to help other people.