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Ann Briscoe, William B. Ward Elementary School’s fifth-grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, and third-grade teacher Tracy Visceglia share how a book inspired a school-wide project to fortify students’ inner strengths. Read on to learn about an innovative approach to social and emotional learning.

This fall, as we entered another school year with society coping with challenges, William B. Ward Elementary School wanted to share a book with a simple but powerful message. Each teacher at Ward School was given a copy of “Be Strong” by Pat Zietlow Miller. The title immediately spoke to us.

All teachers and students read and discussed the book and created unique ways to embrace its message. The book is about finding strength in unlikely places, and it highlighted that being strong isn’t only about physical strength, but mental and emotional strength as well. Tanisha, the main character, learned that strength means showing up, never giving up and asking for and offering help to our friends and family so everyone is stronger together.  

To put the lesson into action, each class created an activity. One third-grade class was inspired by the main character of the book to write 100 letters to strong people they know in their school and home lives. Other classes wrote examples of how they show strength in their lives, including how they “showed up,” “spoke up,” “never gave up,” and “asked for help.” An interactive touch board was created by third-graders in computer class as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project. Using the coding platform Scratch and the Makey Makey Invention Kit, student voice recordings are played back via touchpoints on the board and by specific keyboard strokes. Watch a video here, and view the project on Scratch here.

We hoped that “Be Strong” would encourage students to identify their inner strengths and use them to build others up. After all, we are stronger together.