Learning to Value OneselfFriday, June 8, 2018

“To reach the hearts of children…we have to show them that they are valuable and show them how to appreciate the value of others,” according to teaching artist Paul Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez recently collaborated with Patchogue-Medford fourth grade teachers on an arts-integrated project designed to help students recognizing their personal strengths and develop anti-bullying strategies. For the project, students created an individual chest and filled it with “treasures” representing what they valued about themselves and others as well as anti-bullying strategies. (Be sure to scroll down to the end to hear the amazing things the students said about this project!)


Each of the residency’s sessions used a book written and illustrated by Mr. Rodriguez as a springboard for discussion and activities related to learning to value oneself and others. For example, prior to Session 1, the students read The New Swing King. When the teaching artist met with the students, he introduced the concept of Val-YOU-Able as an essential foundation for anti-bullying strategies. “Our children’s ability to first understand how and why they are valuable, then to actually feel valuable, is the key to their learning how to value others,” stressed the teaching artist. Mr. Rodriguez asked the students: “Why are you valuable?” They eagerly responded with attributes, such as kindness and bravery. He projected “Val-YOU-Able” on the whiteboard. The students read the word and assumed poses that suggested value.

The teaching artist told the children that they would be creating treasure chests that would reflect why they are valuable and include anti-bullying strategies. He passed out handouts and other materials for the project. Next, students were instructed to list their real-life and imaginary superpowers. To motivate them, the teaching artist shared his superpower—weirdness. He explained that this ability helps him discover original ideas and draw creatively, both of which make him special. The students connected with this.

Mr. Rodriguez also described how things can be valuable for different reasons and not strictly related to how much they are worth. He shared how dominoes, which reminded him of an uncle, who was like a best friend, meant more to him than gold. 

The remainder of the session was focused on assembling of the treasure chests. The students put together the chests with Mr. Rodriguez’s guidance and support from the classroom teachers. There was also a discussion about empathy, citizenship and giving-back. After students finished creating their chests, Mr. Rodriguez shared his chest and the treasures inside. He explained the value of each item. He encouraged students to fill their chest with items of similar value.

In subsequent lessons, artist and students discussed the book read prior to the session and issues related to self-esteem. They also broke down bullying by talking about such things as joking versus bullying, types of bullying, and bystanders versus up-standers. The students continued to work on their treasure chests, adding items that represented their uniqueness. In addition, they wrote anti-bullying strategies on pieces of paper, which were folded into origami triangles.


To reinforce the project’s anti-bullying messages, teachers and students saw a performance of Sticks and Stones (below). Lyle Cogen’s one-woman show tackles bullying as well as everyday life skills.

In the final two sessions, students gathered in a circle and chanted phrases that encouraged their individualism. Here are two video clips of that activity…

When the chests were completed, the students presented them to their classmates. Here's one student's fabulous treasure chest...


Here's what the students learned from this project...


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