A teaching experiment turned into a learning experience in more ways than one for students at the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in South Abington Township.
Recently, the students participated in a school-wide commercial making competition to raise awareness about bullying. While they learned a lot about bullying and its various nuances, including cyber bullying, they also got to learn about what creating a commercial entails, from writing the script to filming and even editing.
Nancy Benham, principal of the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children explained how the project came to be.
"Back in December we had a student bring us a clipping about bullying from a newsletter that he had gotten and he suggested that we should talk about it," she said. "I was actually at another school and they had decorated their windows with window paint to raise awareness about bullying. I thought it was a great idea because it was something different as opposed to posters but we don't have that many windows that we can decorate here. While I was talking to another teacher, she came up with the idea of the commercials."
"The end product was that we wanted the teachers to take their class and go through a scenario that would be age-appropriate and make a commercial that would be about what bullying is and what they can do and help them understand," she added.
For the competition, students were put into categories depending on their age and the other students in the school voted on which ones they liked best in each category.
Byron Almekinder, a fifth-through-eighth grade teacher at the school, explained how his students created their commercials.
"In my classroom we set up some practice runs to see if we liked how things looked and modified them if we needed to," he said. "We practiced in the classroom and then went to various places in the school to film. We wanted to really encourage the tech end of it because the kids are so much into technology for communication. We also wanted the parents to be able to see these and see what technology their children are using to communicate with their peers and to be aware of the bullying that can happen with that technology."
School director Rebecca Gaw explained why the school wanted to focus on the technological aspect of bullying.
"Technology has really opened up the world for our students, they have a lot more interaction with other students, whether they are deaf and/or hearing," she said. "They are getting involved in a lot of activities that a hearing child would experience. We want to make sure our students have the same skills and understanding so that they could respond appropriately."
Fifth-grade student Ryane Smalley, through interpreter Mary Ann Stefko, discussed what she learned through participating in the commercials.
"When people gossip and talk about you, you feel deflated," she said. "Gossip about dating or relationships is not something that should happen in school. We did some role playing where we would text and send messages to people and we would then read them and see what other people said. We saw how people could change messages around and lose the meaning and create rumors."
Sixth-grade student Adolfo Rivera said that the commercials taught him how he should treat other people.
"You shouldn't bully, you shouldn't gossip, you shouldn't hurt other people's feelings. That's wrong. It hurts people," he said. "That's not something that is necessary; it doesn't have to happen. People should be friends and they should be nice to each other. Insulting people and calling them names is never necessary."