Students from the Senior Leadership class at Calhoun High School presented to the seventh and eighth grade social studies classes at Merrick Avenue Middle School, delivering messages of the power of symbols and their potential negative connotations.
Teacher Brian Joyce helped students hone their lessons, which incorporated video lessons and question and answer prompts. He noted how passionate the student leaders were when preparing their presentations.
“They wanted to ensure the middle school students understood the impact of hate symbols and hate speech,” explained Joyce. “The seniors believed that the message would be a lot better received coming from them as opposed from it coming from their teachers or administrators.”
Christina Cone, a social studies chairperson at Merrick Avenue and Calhoun, helped coordinate the visits.
“This is the second year having lessons and we wanted the whole building to get the same message how hate and intolerance can lead to serious problems,” added Cone.
Student volunteers visited various classrooms on April 27 and May 15. Their lessons included the power of symbols, the difference between positive and negative ones and those which represent hate.
“We want to spread awareness to the district so that students are more well educated on this topic,” said Calhoun leadership student Gabriela Castillo.
“Another goal is to make sure school stays an inclusive environment,” added student Sophia Philis.
They also educated students on hate crime and hateful vandalism laws, as well as the meaning behind a swastika and why its imagery denotes a negative and hateful connotation.
“Whether or not you feel what it represents, it still hurts others,” said Noah Paymer. “And actions have consequences, especially when it comes to symbols such as these.”
“When you draw a hate symbol, it portrays something that can really hurt another individually emotionally,” added student Thomas Morash.
They later visited eighth grade classes with a similar message of combating hate speech.
“The leadership students designed and taught a lesson that allowed students the opportunity to recognize hate speech and its impact on individuals, groups, and communities, both online and offline,” explained Cone, a social studies chairperson.”
Students also discussed solutions for addressing hate speech, which created a productive open dialogue between the middle and high schoolers.
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