As part of their Unique Week celebration, students at Audubon Elementary discussed what makes each of them special and how differences should be embraced rather than shunned.
Activities included reading and interpreting books and articles about inclusion and diversity, and engaging in group discussions in which students talked about what Unique Week meant to them.
“These activities are important, because they help children develop the ability to interact with all types of people, as well as recognize and advocate for their own needs and the needs of others,” said Lindsay Shumaker, a fifth-grade teacher at Audubon.
Teachers like Lindsay work hard to cultivate an environment where students can feel comfortable accepting each other’s differences; however, it still takes courage to do so. That’s why Audubon adopted “courage” as its 2014 theme.
“You need to have courage to be unique,” said Milan, an Audubon third grader. “You are who you are and you can’t change that. If you’re different than somebody else, great! You don’t want to be the same as other people. I mean it’s boring.
Same is the new boring.”
In addition to group discussions, students spent the week creating pictures and posters depicting courage and uniqueness. They also visited with Special Olympics athletes who shared their motto - "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
According to Mary Kurczak, an Audubon parent and co-founder of Unique Week, the goal of the annual event is to shine the light on abilities rather than disabilities.
“Every child brings unique abilities to school that can be shared in the classroom, on the playground and in the lunchroom,” she said. “Through finding each other’s uniqueness, students find similarities and friendships.
Unique Week is the centerpiece of Audubon’s year-long mission to ensure that students achieve social emotional development along with academic growth.
“It sets the tone for the vision of the school, which is that everyone here is valued and everyone here can experience success,” said Audubon principal Ken Fitzner. “The philosophy seems to be working. Through initiatives like Unique Week, Audubon has seen significant decreases in bullying, as well as a decrease in discipline referrals.”