Frank Ohl Intermediate School students spent Valentine's Day learning important lessons about bullying. Students made hearts, broke them, and tried to put them back together.
The program was the idea of Frank Ohl guidance counselors Jeanne Senchak, Theresa Ferrando, and teacher Jeff Swavel. They came up with an idea to use the happy holiday to teach a lesson on how bullying affects its victims.
"We do things on bullying all year long," said Senchak. "Since it was Valentine's Day, we found a neat way to combine the two."
Frank Ohl fifth-grader Brookelynn Bodnar tries to put together her broken heart as she learns a lesson about bullying last week.
Feb. 14 started with the usual party atmosphere as students made colorful and unusual card boxes for an exchange. Students came up with everything from the traditional decorated box with a slit in the top, to unconventional boxes such as a robot. The boxes were filled with cards from friends during a morning party hosted by the PTA.
Following the late-morning celebration, the students returned to their classroom where they took part in a different approach on the topic of bullying. All fourth- and fifth-grade teachers were given a printout of a story about a young man who had a bad life right from the start.
"He had a rough home life and in school the kids were teasing him," Senchak said.
The story took him through school where the young man faced an onslaught of bullying. As the teachers read the story to their class, the students took cutouts of hearts they had made and held them along with scissors. Every time they heard the young man facing negative situations in the story, they cut a small piece of their heart. By the time the story ended, the hearts were laying in pieces.
"Then they had to put their heart back together as best they could," Senchak said. "They found it would never go back together perfectly."
She said the lesson was that bullying affects a person for the rest of their life. The lesson was in how a student wants to be remembered.
"I say to them, 'How do you want to be remembered?'," she said. "Are you the one who tears the heart apart or the one who keeps the heart intact?"
One class did the project by making one giant heart the class tore as a group, then put it back together.
Once the story was over, teachers and counselors followed up by making sure students understood the message.
"Sympathy and empathy are the key words here," Senchak said. "We find it is often hard for students to put themselves in someone else's shoes. "
She went on to say that school can be everyone's safe place "if we let it."