One group of Martin Murphy Middle School students used Colonel Sanders (yes, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) as a lightning rod for suicide prevention.
A different pack of sixth graders were inspired by women’s rights pioneer Carrie Chapman Catt to design an international flag for equal rights to promote action in other nations.
Another set of students started a campaign to stimulate recycling and combat pollution, while a separate batch of middle schoolers formed a welcoming club to ease tensions for new students.
These student-produced initiatives—displayed April 18 in Murphy’s Innovation Center—were just a few outcomes from a sixth-grade lesson that started with the question: “What is Resilience?”
“Our students have been studying resilient historical figures. They were then asked to use the resilience of the person they are studying to make another person’s life better,” said Murphy teacher Virginia Barrera, who did not know what to expect from her students. “We have been blown away by the level of imagination and motivation from our kiddos.”
Barrera, along with her sixth-grade colleagues, were so impressed by their students that they invited Morgan Hill Unified School District Supt. Steve Betando and Board President Mary Patterson, among others, to come check out the school’s “Resilience In Action Day.”
“They are so proud, too,” said Barrera, who had each group give a presentation to anyone who stopped by their booth and asked what it was all about. “Some of our groups are designing roller coasters for disabled people, planning 5Ks for people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes, writing letters to the governor about fair treatment of farm workers, organizing self-defense classes for victims of violence, and many more.”
For the trio of students Raymond Perez, Yuvrag Sandhu and Ashlyn Roschuk, their project—titled “You Matter. Don’t Let Your Story End”—was a push to help battle depression and prevent individuals from harming themselves. They researched the life of Col. Sanders and learned that he nearly tried to take his own life after his chicken recipe was turned down time and time again.
“We knew people love Kentucky Fried Chicken so we decided to find out his back story,” said Sandhu, 12. “He was actually contemplating suicide when people kept rejecting him.”
With that in mind, the trio then researched other celebrities who at one point in their life were faced with depression. They made posters of them and put them around the school to show what they made of themselves by fighting through the tough times.
“We want to encourage them that their life matters and they can do great things instead of committing suicide,” said Roschuk.
Another larger group of students used the resiliency lesson to form a welcoming committee to assist new students in their transition and make them feel part of their new school.
“A lot of students come in mid-year and they always feel left out,” explained Elizabeth Duong, 12, one of seven team members. “Our idea was to help them, show them around the school and introduce them to other students.”
Sixth grader Kasey Kepler was part of a four-student group inspired by their research of Sacagawea to bring awareness to the environment.
“We wanted to help our environment by picking up any trash we see on the ground and promoting better habits to protect our marine and animal life,” Kepler said. “Hopefully, people can follow us and we can be an example.”
The five-student team of Anthony Talamo, Adriana Escobar, Galvin Huynh, Brooklyn Amato and Mia Gavay researched the life of Carrie Chapman Catt, who pioneered the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. Wanting to further women’s rights across the globe, the group designed a special flag that they hope can become a lasting symbol.
“There still are women who don’t have rights in their hometowns like in Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan,” said Amato, whose group crafted a letter to the United Nations about flying their women’s rights flag.
Studying up on the life of Helen Keller, the five-student unit of Tayler Crawford, Robert Aguilar, Joaquin Macias, Angelina Phan and Devin Ngo wanted to support people with disabilities. They are planning an event where participants will experience what it’s like to live with a disability.