Teacher Spotlight: Heather Gibson’s “Flower Project”

We recently connected with Heather Gibson, School Guidance Counselor at Hatikvah International Academy Charter School in East Brunswick, NJ. Heather showed us her “Flower Project” and we are so excited to share this with the Peekapak community!

 

What is the Flower Project?

In the Flower Project, students create a unique flower representing who they are. This character education lesson gives students the opportunity to highlight their strengths, while helping them identify a skill they need to develop.

How do students create their own flowers?

Creating the flowers is a 5-step process:

 

Step 1: Lead students in a discussion about positive characteristics and what they mean.

Make a list of students names on the board and have each member of the group start with their own name. Each student writes one or two positive characteristics about themselves under their name. Then, have the rest of the group rotate to a different name and write a positive characteristic about that person underneath their name. Continue until students are back at their own name.

 

Step 2: Each student examines the characteristics underneath their name.
Students may talk with their classmates and gain more information about why they selected and wrote a specific characteristic underneath their name. Students will explain why they think that these characteristics fit their friend.

 

Step 3: Students choose which characteristics they wish to put onto their flower.
Teachers can make a list with correct spelling of the different characteristics mentioned for student reference.

 

Step 4: Students create their unique flower.
Students select the number of characteristics they wish to add to their flower by writing a characteristic onto a construction paper petal. Then, students create their flower by writing their name into the center of their flower and taping or gluing petals around the center of their flower. They may also write about something they are good at, or a skill they wish to work on. Students finish their flower by cutting a stem from green construction paper and adding it to their flower. They can write something they learned on their stem.

 

Step 5: Students go on an art walk.
Teachers can hang up the completed flowers onto the classroom wall and have students do an art walk to read others’ flowers.

What impact is the “Flower Project” having on students?

The Flower Project encourages students to express their strengths and also opens them up to new skills they may think are beyond them. Many students were surprised to learn that there were so many positive characteristics that described them. For younger students it was the first time that they tried to describe themselves, so we help them by telling them how we (the group members/ classmates) describe them. This is a benefit, especially for students with low self-esteem or self-confidence, because it is a positive reinforcement of their character.

 

How can other teachers bring the “Flower Project” to their school?

Other teachers can bring the Flower Project to their schools by talking about character traits with students. The first step with Kindergarten to 2nd graders is to discuss positive characteristics. I do this by reading either Hooray for you! A Celebration of “You-ness” By Marianne Richmond or I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell. With students in 3rd -5th grade we explore character traits by doing a post-it share. A post-it share is when you have the children put their name on the top of a large post-it. Then all the students go around and write character traits about each other. Some students are surprised by what others think of them. The key with this is making sure that only positive characteristics are highlighted. From this we move into making the flowers. The students are allowed to choose everything about their flowers, everything from what petals they use, what decorations they put on them, and of course the positive characteristics they use to describe themselves.

 

Why do you think Character Education and Social Emotional Learning are important to teach? 

I believe these are extremely important to teach because they help students learn how to co-exist with others in appropriate and healthy ways. By teaching them the positive way of being, we are allowing them to develop healthy relationships and ask for help when they notice something is not right. I think the earlier you teach character education and SEL the greater impact you will have. Younger students are accepting of different ways of doing things, and are receptive to learning the “right” or appropriate way of acting. They are very concerned with being good, and not getting in trouble both at school and at home. Because of this internal motivator, it is easier for educators, counselors, and parents to teach younger students how to be honest, gracious, and so much more.

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Ami Shah is a Co-Founder & CEO of Peekapak, an edtech startup that teaches social-emotional learning skills like self-regulation, empathy and team work in the class and home. Peekapak is backed by; Silicon Valley based accelerator, Imagine K12, the Edtech vertical of Y Combinator and; the Unreasonable Institute.