We have all been through a lot these last couple of weeks. As a lifelong NJ resident, I have grieved for our beloved Garden State, as so much of the damage and devastation has been revealed through pictures, stories, and first-hand accounts. Watching the way thousands of people within and outside of New Jersey have begun to give their time, energy, and resources, I am also heartened by the spirit of community that has risen up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
School will be challenging this year with many communities trying to adjust to a “new normal.” Teachers and Administrators will have their hands full not only trying to catch up on missed lessons, but also dealing with a range of issues caused by the disruption to their students and families. Calendars will need to be adjusted, schools cleaned out, stocks replenished. In the face of these challenges, many NJ teachers are using the storm and its aftermath as teachable moments. One example is a group of teachers in Spotswood who’ve created a School Supplies for Hurricane Sandy Victims page on Facebook, matching classes and schools who are in a position to collect supplies with those in need.
As we tend to the adult issues of cleaning up and restoring our lives, we should all recognize that the events of the last two weeks have had an impact on our children. As resilient as they may seem, the disruption of floods, power outages, loss of home and property have left their mark. We have a responsibility and opportunity as adults to help them deal with what’s happened. How can we best help them to process what they have seen, heard, and experienced? How can we help them reestablish a sense of place and belonging amidst so much dislocation and disruption?
Many teachers understand that one of the best ways to process these experiences is by writing about them. Putting pencil to paper can often be the best way for children to express what they find hard to say. Celebrate NJ is a nonprofit organization that offers curriculum-based writing programs to all New Jersey schools at no fee. Two of these programs could be especially helpful right now as tools to help the children of New Jersey:
- The Classroom Connection pen pal program for grades 2-5, provides students the opportunity to write letters to students in another part of NJ throughout the school year. The writing topics allow students to explore feelings and thoughts about themselves, the place they live, their hopes, challenges, and more. So far, more than 200 classes have signed up and matching is open through the end of the year. For more information: www.theclassroomconnection.com
- The New Jersey Scoop writing contest invites 4th graders to research and write about a favorite New Jersey person, place, attraction, or historical event for our annual publication. This writing process could allow students to pay tribute to special places or recognize heroes in our midst, and is a great way to celebrate all that we love about The Garden State. Details, teacher guides, and registration information is also available online at www.CelebrateNJ.org.
At this unique time in New Jersey history, we can create an opportunity for our children to feel more connected to each other, to their own hopes and dreams, and to the place they call home.
Interested educators may find more information on the Celebrate NJ website or may contact our office at 732-339-8178.
Celebrate New Jersey