Creating a Climate of Tolerance and Acceptance
The Wayne Township Public Schools carried out the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate® in all fourteen of our schools with great success. Rarely does the implementation of a new program have such a transformative effect on a school system. Due to the excitement generated from the inception, and the admiration and support our school community quickly developed for No Place for Hate ®, the program reached deeply into our school system. In order to share No Place for Hate®, the District created its own website with the goal of further advancing tolerance and acceptance beyond our schools. The link to the District’s No Place for Hate® website is included here: WTPS No Place for Hate Website.
Program highlights at each educational level are outlined below:
The Wayne Township Elementary Schools promote a climate of acceptance and inclusivity and teach our students the importance of respect, diversity and multicultural learning, through various programs unified by the No Place For Hate mission. Through school-wide activities, the One Book, One School event and Mix It Up Lunch, students learn the importance of recognizing their own unique abilities and characteristics, while appreciating the diversity in their school communities.
The elementary schools completed the One Book, One School program. During One Book, One School every elementary student read the book, Quackers, by Liz Wong. After reading the book, students engaged in discussions about respect and inclusion and were asked to identify something that made them unique or special, and another trait that unifies their school community. Students shared their unique trait on a Quackers bookmark, and shared the trait they had in common on a unity link that eventually was made into a unity chair that was displayed in their school.
During Mix It Up Lunch, “we ask students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch. It’s a simple act with profound implications. Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.” (tolerance.org). Several times during the school year, students are randomly assigned to different lunch tables with other students from their grade. Students are encouraged to get to know their new lunch neighbors through icebreaker questions. At the end of lunch, students are lead through a discussion about what they liked about the activity, what they learned about their lunch neighbors, and why activities like Mix It Up Lunch are important to making our schools a safer and more welcoming environment. The video link below demonstrates the hard work and continuous efforts of our elementary students and staff to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusivity for all our students: Elementary School Highlight Video
All Wayne Township Public Schools’ middle school students have participated in a variety of lessons and activities focusing on eliminating discrimination and prejudice by emphasizing kindness, acceptance and understanding. In our efforts to create a culture and climate that emphasizes the importance of understanding, accepting, and celebrating differences, all schools participated in the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate® initiative. Wayne middle school students signed the Resolution of Respect, in which they pledged to help eliminate discrimination and prejudice by reaching out to those who are targets of hate and to stand up against biased, exclusionary, and unkind behavior. In support of our district’s commitment to make Wayne Schools, No Place for Hate®, all students took part in an assembly, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, entitled Step Up. The assembly modeled the acceptance of differences through understanding and embracing the uniqueness of humanity.
Each of Wayne’s middle schools have individualized character education programs. These programs generate a multitude of schoolwide activities in support of each learning community’s unique needs. Please see the descriptions listed below, which highlight each school’s efforts to increase understanding, acceptance, and kindness within their own community.
At Anthony Wayne Middle School, students continually work to eliminate discrimination and prejudice through our year long, character education program, 180 Days of AWesome. This year’s theme asked our students to Choose Kind. During Anthony Wayne’s 180 Days of AWesome students participated in monthly homeroom lessons focused on kindness, tolerance, and acceptance. During Anthony Wayne’s One School One Book initiative, students and staff members alike read the book Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This text highlighted the importance of learning about others, understanding and embracing differences and the significant impact kindness has on others. Anthony Wayne students were visited by two guest speakers, Mike Marsteller and Brian Williams, who shared their messages of Think Kindness and that it is Cool to be Kind. During the Week of Respect, Anthony Wayne Middle School also participated in the Great Kindness Challenge, where students, staff, and parents were individually tasked with a checklist of activities and actions to complete in order to show kindness to people in their lives.
George Washington Middle School infuses character education through daily classroom lessons and school-wide learning opportunities. These opportunities emphasize kindness and allow for students to be active in giving back to the surrounding community and those in need. By focusing on developing positive relationships and empathy through the cultivation of kindness, along with citizenship and philanthropic skills, George Washington is working to eliminating discriminatory and exclusionary behaviors within their school community.
Schuyler-Colfax Middle School continuously offers programming geared toward encouraging tolerance and acceptance for all and by all. Through a comprehensive character education program, students are exposed to activities that help them gain an awareness of the positive impact that tolerance and acceptance has on the school community. Schuyler-Colfax Middle School kicked off the school year by having all students participate in the Kindness Rock Activity. The focus of this activity was to have students see how far one positive message can travel. Guest speakers have also come to speak to Schuyler students about the power of kindness and positivity. During Random Acts of Kindness Week, students placed post-it notes on all lockers displaying uplifting and motivational messages. All activities in which Schuyler students participate in are in alignment with the school’s mission to create a community in which students feel accepted and are tolerant of others. Please click on the following link to witness our middle school students and staff in action: Middle School Highlight Video
Wayne Township students at both Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley have taken part in various activities aimed at eliminating bias and prejudice while building a foundation of understanding and appreciation for the differences that exist between us. During the Week of Respect at Wayne Valley, students lead activities that focused on various topics such as gender equity, diversity, respect for others and the understanding of the LGBTQ community. In addition, a group of student created a video illustrating MicroAggressions and how they have affected them. Wayne Hills students viewed the Ted Talk “Danger of a Single Story” which led to classroom discussions on the dangers of only hearing a single story of a person or country. The Ted Talk specifically focused on how a person’s background and culture impact his or her’s perception of a situation and how important it is to be tolerant.
Throughout the year, Wayne Hills has held activities during the Week of Respect such as Chalk Walk (which displayed positive messages in the courtyard in front of the building), hung pictures stating “Stop the Trend, #MakeBullyingEnd.” In another activity, Project Bully, students created their own stories and images reflecting the dark side and negative impact that bullying can have. The photos were enlarged and then hung around the entrance of the school.
At Wayne Valley, students also participated in the Week of Kindness. Along with activities throughout the week, staff and students took part in a project called Third Party Compliments, where staff and students submitted compliments and positive messages anonymously. Close to 2,800 messages were delivered throughout the week. Students also took part in a Wellness Fair which highlighted positive behaviors and finding pride in who you are. During May, Wayne Valley students, after connecting with Chief Joseph of the Maasai community, hosted a “Clean Water Walk” to mimic the 3.7 miles that Maasai tribe of Kenya must make in order to obtain clean water for their families. Students raised enough money for the construction of a well for the tribe. In addition to the walk, students also took part in other activities to increase awareness of the tribal culture and to find gratitude and appreciation for what is available to us.
We are all very proud of the work that has been done at each school this year, and within the entire Wayne Township Public Schools district, to foster and develop an inclusive, respectful school climate, free from discrimination and prejudice, for all of our students, no matter their race, religion or ethnicity. Our collaborative efforts to combat discrimination and to decrease bullying at all of our schools is ongoing and will continue until prejudice and aggression towards others is eliminated in our District.