As kids start to reach their teenage years, new issues, such as self-image and acceptance of those different from themselves, start to arise.
Seventh grade St. Mary's teacher, Sally Ness, a 2008 Anderson University graduate in elementary education and special education, will use the Make Activities Count (MAC) grant money she’ll be receiving from McDonald’s Restaurants of Central Indiana to do a project she said is about "anti-bullying and diversity all meshed into one."
She wanted a big multicultural project since the student population at the school is diverse.
“It’s kind of a celebration of who they are and about being who they are and owning up to it,” she said.
The seventh-graders will make self-portraits with the assistance of a painter friend of Ness who will focus on what is unique about each student, like mixing paints to match skin color.
She said they will also try to incorporate some Frida Kahlo work since they have a large Latino population at the school.
When finished, the portraits will either be displayed in the classroom or throughout St. Mary’s,1115 Pearl St., and the students will then be making presentations to younger kids in the school.
The presentations will give them a chance to be leaders and work on public speaking skills, Ness said.
But first, they will read “The Skin I’m In” by Sharon Flake to get some good dialogue going.
Coming from teaching first to seventh grade, Ness said she read books this summer that were at a junior high level to prepare and came upon “The Skin I’m In.”
It brought her back to being that age and reminded her what it was like to be in school.
And even though the book is about a poor inner-city school, she said there is still important meaning behind the story.
It’s about a young girl who is bullied, but learns to stand up for herself and love who she is.
Moving up to a higher grade level, Ness said she immediately saw the differences between the two groups of students.
“It was so apparent how brutal junior high can be with all the insecurities and being 12, 13.”
She said bullying isn’t really so much an issue at St. Mary’s as older students just feeling excluded and having a lack of self-confidence.
The students are good kids, she said, but there are a lot of differences.
For example, since it is a private school, some are of wealthier families while others are there on scholarships, she said.
And then there’s the diverse population she mentioned.
“(I want the students) not only being tolerant of one another, but celebrating those differences,” she said of the lessons she hopes her students take from the project.
With the $350 from the grant, she plans to buy the book for all of the seventh graders — there are 11 of them — and a nice canvas for each to paint on.
Any money left over will be used to buy books for the nine eighth-graders.
Right now, the project is still in the idea phase and will start a week after Christmas break, Ness said.
The MAC grant Ness is receiving has provided funding to teachers for projects that supplement regular classroom learning and are interesting since 2003, according to Cher Nelson, assistant account manager with McDonald’s Restaurants of Central Indiana.
Each project is reviewed and selected by a group of judges with the number of grants awarded each year varying, she said.
This year, Nelson said, 51 grants worth up to $500 each, were awarded, and applications for the grant can be submitted at www.mcindiana.com during fall 2012.
—Dani Palmer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: John P. Cleary. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.