Willingboro Education Association (Burlington County) members Susan Duncan and Francine Satterfield know that junior high school students have very little tolerance for people they perceive to be different. Their NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education grant ($9,997) winning project, Tolerance in the Arts, Tolerance in Our Hearts, is designed to help their Art and Thematic Studies students develop tolerance for people with different cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations, and abilities, and make conscious choices to develop empathy for one another so they can learn to celebrate diversity.
This year-long project will utilize a variety of sources and activities to instill a sense of tolerance within students and throughout the community.
All students, as well as community leaders and members, will participate in presentations (Michael Fowlin) dealing with issues of race, discrimination, violence prevention, personal identity, suicide, gender equity, and homophobia. Fifteen (15) student facilitators will be trained to lead discussions with their peers by Youth Empowerment Services, Inc. (Y.E.S., Inc.).
The novel Romiette and Julio, a story about an interracial couple and a dangerous local gang that violently opposes their relationship, will be the basis for a play students will perform at the end of the year.
Since the school has no drama department, staff members will participate in a professional development workshop ("Directing the School Play: From the Page to the Stage") provided by Young Audiences of NJ. Students and parents will attend three workshops to receive training in stage make-up, costume design, and set and lighting design.
Through art classes, seventh grade students will learn about peace advocates and create large picture mosaics of their faces. Eighth grade art students will paint a four-panel wooden mural depicting their vision of a world at peace.
Finally, students will perform their play about tolerance for the school and community-at-large.
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