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Hastings-on-Hudson Golden Rule Project Promotes Kindness to Help Free Middle School Students from Feelings of Isolation

golden rule To help students navigate the unprecedented lifestyle changes created by the coronavirus, sixth grade Farragut Middle School Social Studies teacher Barbara Richman implemented a project for students to create a “Golden Rule for 2020” for living life in the best way possible during this pandemic and making a positive difference in the lives of others. Steeped in empathy, the Golden Rule of treating others as you want to be treated, is a maxim that can be found in many religions and cultures. 

As part of the Social Studies curriculum, students in sixth grade study early World Religions. They watched a film focused on the Golden Rule and are learning that ancient religions and cultures spanning thousands of years each have a version of this principle. 

After the first week of distance learning, when it was clear it would continue for quite a while, Richman realized that a good way to engage the students would be to tap into different learning styles and media. So, she reached out to another Social Studies teacher, Devita Cruz, and the middle school Art teacher Ezra Elliot to get their support for a collaborative inter-disciplinary project. Students would be given the task of using symbolism to create their own “Golden Rule for 2020.” They could draw, sculpt, bake, create a digital image, anything they wanted to communicate what the Golden Rule means to them and how it can make a positive difference in the lives of others. 

“The idea of a Golden Rule resonates so clearly right now as we are challenged by circumstances beyond our control, states Barbara Richman. “I thought a project where the students identified their own Golden Rule would help them cope with these challenges and give inspiration to each other.” 

“Involving the art teacher in creating this assignment made a lot of sense as the more connections we can make across disciplines, the more meaningful the assignment becomes,” continues Richman. “Some students can express their thoughts and ideas more clearly through their art than they can with words.” 

Art teacher Ezra Elliott worked with the students on their projects and said, “The therapeutic nature of art is such a valuable part of a middle schooler’s education, and I’m so happy we have been able to keep that aspect of our school ongoing. The students need an outlet now more than ever. For many people, during times of stress, if they feel like they are looking out for other people or making someone else’s life better, they can really develop a sense of pride and happiness. I think the students were able to achieve that with this project.” 

Social Studies teacher Devita Cruz added, “Throughout this project is was wonderful to see the creativity of the students really shine. The messages and symbolism that students used to showcase their ideas of living through such a momentous historical time was so uplifting. I loved seeing their messages of hope, finding joy in a time of chaos, and tips for best practices in a pandemic.” 

“I was so proud of the thought and effort students put into this assignment,” said Richman. “I hope together we can take this terrible situation and make something good of it.” 

Responses of the sixth grade students to the project and creating a Golden Rule include: 

Aoife Smith Golden Rule: " Because we are apart we will come back together stronger." 

I liked doing this project because it helped me realize that even though it is hard being away from friends and classmates it means that when we come back together we will have a stronger friendship. It has also helped me forget about the scary things and focus on how we can make the best of this time. 

Madison McSpedon Golden rule: “Stay positive.” 

I liked this project because during these hard times it is good to have a golden rule to follow. This might help people get through this new and difficult time and it was also fun to turn something not so good into something good to follow through art. 

David Franco Golden rule: “When everything feels hard and bad, the bright side is always around the corner.” 

I liked doing this project because with everything that's going on in the world, and not just the pandemic, things can and will become better. With all the people that are trying to keep people safe and healthy, things are going to get better and that's what matters. 

Eden Goldman-Wetzler 

I liked doing this project because it was fun to come up with a rule for yourself and family about how to act in this scary situation. I feel like this our Golden rules could really help people go through these times. I feel this way because if people listen to our rules, maybe, just maybe we could help people not freak out and make the right choices for this time. 

Devin Muldoon 

I liked this assignment because it was a good way to calm down after everything that has happened in these stressful times. I also find drawing or doing any other craft calming. It is nice to have a saying, or maybe a song that cheers you up and gives you hope in times that make you feel any bad emotion. 

Emily Taylor 

I liked doing this assignment because most of the time, I use soccer as a tool to be happy in hard times, but many of these days spent at home have been gloomy and raining, and I'm not able to go to the field. So, this project has really helped me find something (art) that I can do that relaxes me and helps me stay focused on the important things in my life so that when I can't play soccer, I have something else that I can rely on to focus and relax me in these difficult times. 

Jia-Xiu (Siri) Rosenberg 

I liked doing the assignment because it is a fun way to show creativity, through Social Studies and art. This pandemic has taken away two main parts of my life, socializing and softball. Thinking about the golden rules helps us because some of them give us tips but through art it’s a fun way to keep in mind the small tips of advice or hope our classmates gave. It also helps us remember we are all in this together and if it ends for one of us it ends for all of us.

Download: The Golden Rule 6th Grade Social Studies Slideshow