Members of the C.V. Starr community are hoping student messages inscribed on hundreds of "helping hands"—which share children's thoughts on bullying and more—will help set the tone for the school year.
Youngsters worked on the school-wide art project, which coincides with the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), for several art class periods.
First, they learned about the act's purpose, which, according to the state's website, is to provide students with a "safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying" in school. It went into effect July 1.
During the lecture, the third, fourth and fifth-graders participated in a discussion that involved role-playing. Afterward, they began the assignment: color and design a paper hand, then jot down a thought about how to treat others.
"I realized that most of the time, bullies just want a reaction," Malcolm Nordquist, a fifth-grade student who said the project made him feel "proud," said, adding that bullies "don't care." His sentence reads:
"Stop bullying. Start caring for others."
Another student, Sidharth Ashok, used "a simple rule," which he said he learned in preschool, to create his piece. It's one "everyone ignored" starting in second and third grades:
"Treat people the way you want to be treated."
Art teacher Denise Cooper, who organized the project, said the goal is to empower students. Her discussions with students covered everything from the meaning of words like harassment and discrimination to a reminder that bullying is not limited to physical actions.
"Words can hurt, too," art teacher Denise Cooper said on a recent school day, as she hung paper hands from the walls of the lobby. "No one wants to be bullied. Now they don't have to be intimidated. It gives them power."
Cooper said she's noticed a change in student behavior recently, with more youngsters going out of the way to show kindness. She reminds them often that a simple compliment may mean a lot to a classmate.
Assistant Principal Nancy Ferrarone said the project, along with other DASA-related lessons slated to take place over the course of the year, helps "build character" within the school.
"It gives ownership," Ferrarone said while glancing around at the bright designs covering the circular lobby. "Every child has something here."