Moffat County students mark Day Without Hate | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County students mark Day Without Hate

Posters, signs and commitment to go beyond one day characterize student efforts

Michael Neary

East Elementary School fifth-graders Reagen Bower, left, Mary Willems, Cayden King and Alexis Swan worked on a poster that won the school’s first-place prize during Friday’s Day Without Hate activities. Fifth-grader Brant Gutierrez, not pictured, also worked on the poster.





East Elementary School fifth-graders Reagen Bower, left, Mary Willems, Cayden King and Alexis Swan worked on a poster that won the school's first-place prize during Friday's Day Without Hate activities. Fifth-grader Brant Gutierrez, not pictured, also worked on the poster.
Michael Neary

— In celebrating a Day Without Hate, students at East Elementary School created posters representing the many ways people come together. In a contest that culminated on Friday, the winning poster showed two hands, of different colors, joining in a heart-shape clasp surrounding a tiny globe.

And there's more, if you look closely. The background, for instance is divided into puzzle pieces.

"I came up with the puzzle idea because working together is a part of kindness, and the puzzle shows working together," said Alexis Swan.

Alexis is one of five fifth-graders who worked on the poster. The others included Reagen Bower, Brant Gutierrez, Cayden King and Mary Willems. Instructional aide, Diane Cookston, and physical education teacher, Karen Rohnke, coordinated the Day Without Hate poster project.

"We asked (the students) to draw or write about what kindness means to them," Cookston said.

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According to the organization's website, "Day Without Hate is a student-led, grassroots organization that promotes nonviolence, unity and respect in our schools." The organization formed after the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, when "students at Standley Lake High School asked their classmates to wear white in order to show a commitment and trust in each other to make their school a safer place."

Cookston said the poster project at East Elementary School also was fostered by the school's version of Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness program.

"We do that throughout the year to promote kindness, so Day Without Hate just naturally fit in with that," Cookston said.

On Friday, Rohnke ann-

ounced the winners during the school's weekly assembly. It's a gathering that features songs and rhythmic gestures, along with a group of students keeping the beat on bucket drums. Rohnke appealed to the students' sense of drama as she announced grade-level winners and then the final winners.

"This is so important they sealed the results, just like at the Oscars," she said.

One key detail in the winning poster involved the clasping hands — hands that were of different colors, and that were also male and female. Cayden said she concocted the idea of the hands, and that she and other students experimented with the positioning.

"They're different kinds of people just holding hands," Reagen said.

Reagen also noted the importance of the bright, rainbow-like colors in the poster.

"A Day Without Hate is the day to be happy and joyful, and a rainbow kind of represents that," she said.

The students thought, too, about what the poster might mean to students their age — in fifth-grade, when life is starting to become more complicated than it used to be.

"It solves some drama and it shows how to be kind to each other," Alexis said.

Mary contemplated the way friendships can run into trouble and need some kind of repairing.

"It's hard when you have a really good friend and you get in a fight," Mary said. "If you're really upset about it, you could give the other person some time to cool off and then say 'sorry.'"

At Moffat County High School, students also participated in activities, sparked by Day Without Hate, to foster friendships.

"We're doing a sign as a commitment to each other," said Amanda McDermott, student council advisor and special education teacher, noting that the sign will be posted long after the day is done.

"Students are tracing their hands, as a commitment to make it more than just one day," she said. "It should be part of our culture."

Students at the high school engaged in team-building activities Friday, and they assembled for discussion about Day Without Hate, McDermott said.

She said students purchased T-shirts from the Day Without Hate organization — and they're selling them for a bit more than cost so they can donate the proceeds to an organization that supports mental wellness.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.