Teenage agents of tolerance
Teenage agents of tolerance
By Lois K. Solomon
November 9, 2002
BOCA RATON + Sarah Winfield's fifth-grade
class listens dutifully when she talks. But when the cool teenagers from Olympic
Heights High School come to visit each week, they really listen.
teenagers, members of the Key Club, play games that promote cultural diversity
and teach racial and religious tolerance to the Whispering Pines Elementary
School students. They meet each Friday as part of a pilot project between two
school staffers, Olympic Heights media specialist Debbie Siegel and Whispering
Pines speech pathologist B.J. Saul.
The women have taken several courses
in tolerance education from the school district's Holocaust studies department
and brainstormed the elementary school-high school project as they thought of
ways to promote diverse cultures at their schools.
"We wanted to see if
teamwork, cooperative learning, helps get the point across,'' Siegel said.
"We're finding that the worst behaved child becomes engaged.''
teachers have sought creative ways to teach tolerance after taking courses in
Holocaust studies, which became mandatory for all Florida students in 1998.
Eileen Shapiro, Holocaust studies planner for the Palm Beach County School
District, said more than 500 teachers have participated in the past year's
workshops, which included trips to Holocaust museums and seminars that explore
bigotry and how to prevent it in children.
"We deal with emotional
issues, and it touches them,'' Shapiro said. "We teach them that each one of
them can make a difference. You don't have to wait for a big group of people to
be galvanized. You can do it on your own.''
Saul and Siegel said they get
many of their ideas from a Web site, www.tolerance.org. On a recent Friday, they
asked six groups of fifth graders, each led by a Key Club member, to describe
lemons placed on their tables.
The teachers then mixed up the lemons and
students were able to find them easily, based on their shapes, bumps and
discolorations. But once the students peeled the lemons, they saw the fruits
were equally sour, seeded and fragrant.
"It's much harder to describe a
lemon without the peel,'' Saul told them. "You don't want to give something a
label before you find out what it's all about.''
In future weeks, the Key
Clubbers and fifth-graders will learn about the many religious holidays that
come in winter and will make a colorful quilt that shows what they've learned.
Key Club members said working in a group and learning the dangers of
stereotyping are important lessons.
"It's good to learn all this stuff
now, with all that's going on in the world,'' said Kasie Simpson, an Olympic
Heights junior. "Who you are is determined in middle school. You learn how to
make friends and who can be a good friend. I remember those days
The fifth-graders say they also are inspired by the Key Club
"We get to see what older kids are like,'' student Shawna
Hauschild said. "They know a lot more than us.''
Lois Solomon can be
reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6536.
Copyright Ā 2002, South Florida
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel