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The City Journals

Stones share students’ stories at Fox Hollow Elementary

May 14, 2018 04:07PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students love to pause at the glass case and explore the various personalities on display. (Deborah Hansen/Fox Hollow Elementary)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Second grade teacher Deborah Hansen learned about her students in a unique way this year.

“I had them think about different experiences in their life that have made them who they are or impacted them a lot,” she said. After writing essays about their specific experience, they illustrated it—on a rock.

The art project was inspired by a book, "Only One You" by Linda Kranz in which the characters are rocks painted to look like fish.

Students and their teachers considered who they are and painted a rock to represent their individuality.

The 1100 rocks—decorated with acrylic paint, outlined with black sharpie marker and sprayed with a clear coat spray—filled a display case in the front hall of Fox Hollow Elementary, 6020 W. 8200 S in West Jordan.

A seascape theme illustrated that they are all individual fish swimming in a school, said Hansen. She wanted students to understand that they’re all individuals with their own stories and when they come together, they make each other better.

Principal Kevin Pullan was very supportive of Hansen’s idea to include everyone in the school for the project. He said it helped students feel like an important part of their school.

Hansen invited the faculty to paint their rocks first, during a professional development session over the summer.

 “It was lovely to learn more about other faculty members as they explained why they chose their rock designs,” said Amy Martz, a fourth grade teacher. “Some teachers stayed long after the others, enjoying the art. The mood of the room was so relaxed and positive.”

When teachers did the project with their students, they got a glimpse into what is important to the kids. Martz’s fourth graders’ rocks revealed their senses of humor, their interests and what they love most.

“The project did help me understand the students better after seeing their rock,” said Martz.

Hansen was inspired further by the book’s advice for life, given by the father fish in the book.

“There are a lot of good lessons in the little book,” she said. Each month, Hansen focused on one of the life lessons.

Teaching the lesson, “Always be on the lookout for a new friend”, helped students to form friendships at the beginning of the year. They continued to be aware of including others as six new students joined their class during the year. Hansen also reminded students of this lesson when kids were being left out of recess games.

Another lesson that made a big impact on students was, “If something gets in your way, move around it.” With her autistic students especially, Hansen found the need to help kids deal with their frequent frustration. She prompted students to think their way around the problem.

Other wisdom shared from the book: Find your own way—you don’t have to follow the crowd, There are times to blend in and times to stand out, Look for beauty in the world, Know when to speak and when to listen, There’s so much to discover.

Hansen said her seven and eight year olds were able to apply the concepts across various contexts. She often heard her students coaching each other in the application of one of the lessons.

“There are some kids that always take it to heart a lot more than others so they’ll tend to remind other kids,” said Hansen.

One of the most used lessons was “If you make a wrong turn, circle back”.

“When someone is upset—like about missing too many on a math test—then we talk about that if you make a mistake, you can circle back,” said Hansen. “It’s not too late to learn it, they just have to decide that that's what they want to do.”  

The life lessons from the picture book were posted in the classroom for students to refer to often.

“In other parts of the curriculum, when those kinds of things come up, then we refer back to the theme,” said Hansen. “Hopefully, they learn something lasting.”