One Can Count at P.S. 55 on Staten Island.
Fifth graders are the experts as they partner with the Kindergartners to reinforce the message, "Everyone Counts." After reading Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning book, One, the mentors got together with their younger counterparts to lead them in an activity that demonstrates that everyone is unique, beautiful and valuable. (One is an ageless children's book which beautifully and simply inspires kids -- and adults, too -- to step up for themselves and for others.)
A One Can Count team of teachers and staff came up with the idea of doing something seasonal that expressed the importance of respecting each other's differences. As the partners created their own snowflakes together, the students had fun getting to know one another as well as crafting something that they could display with pride.
There are so many positive things about P.S. 55's efforts.
Using a Simple Tool
NYS Senator Andrew Lanza provided 30 copies of One and 30 copies of it's companion book, Zero, to each elementary school in his district on Staten Island. Inspired by the book and the gift, P.S. 55 set out to ensure that each student received their own personal copy of One.
The message of One is for all ages but when you make the older students the teachers, they take ownership of the concepts of kindness, empowerment, and positive action. There are countless benefits of mentoring but perhaps placing students in a leadership role is the most powerful. Leadership is the Anti-Bully.
When administration, teachers, guidance counselors, parent coordinators and other staff members get together to promote leadership, it's a message to students that they're important. In essence, it demonstrates leadership and students learn by example.
Think about it. Children learn more when they feel emotionally safe and when they're having fun. The fact that Kindergartners have a friend in the 5th grade is a big deal. Add to that, the time spent doing a creative activity brings joy to both.
Empathy is easier to teach when students are asked to look out for someone younger. Compassion helps students become "upstanders," the secret weapon against bullying. When kids step up for one another in mean situations, the bullying stops in seconds.
Hats off to Principal Sharon Fishman, Guidance Counselor Arlene Donnelly, staff members Juleah Bracker and Julia Lucchese and of course and most importantly, the brilliant students at P.S. 55. Getting creative and teaching leadership helps create a school climate of cooperation.
In other words, P.S. 55 itself is like a snowflake -- unique and beautiful.