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Art Teacher's Inspiration Charms Students At Wish Elementary School

October 31, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

Malik Gary is the champ at Wish Elementary School when it comes to finding the colorful charms the school's art teacher hides around the building.

Ask him about his cache, and Malik reaches into his pants pocket. It takes two hands to hold all 24 of the charms he's collected.

In brilliant shades - green, blue, orange, pink, yellow and green - and in myriad shapes - stars, circles, squares and cylinders - the little pieces dazzle. Youngsters are thrilled if they find a charm, and many bring them promptly to art teacher Carolyn Lyman so she can string them up as a necklace.

But what teachers and parents treasure about the charms is the opportunity to talk about the message written on each one.

"Share," one reads. "Take turns, play fair, honesty, forgive others, be kind, be loyal, respect others, be accountable, self-discipline ..."

Lyman came up with the idea of the charms as her artistic contribution to the school's character education curriculum. She uses a waterproof Sharpie to write on the small charms.

"I'm drawing on the beads day and night," she said. Even at the dinner table, she said, she alternates taking a bite and writing on a charm.

"I thought the sixth-graders would be blase about it because they're just too cool. But they love them," Lyman said.

While Lyman is stringing the charms, she chats with the students about the meaning of the words. One student, sixth-grader Hector Rodriguez, exhibited one of the traits - sharing - when he brought his friend, fellow sixth-grader Miguel Figueroa, with him and offered him a charm so Miguel could get a necklace, too.

Hector's charm read "self-discipline."

So what does that mean? Lyman wanted to know.

"It means self-control," Miguel said, prompting his friend. "I try to be in self-control," Miguel added. The charms have become so popular with students that the school has distributed baggies of blank charms to parent volunteers and to classroom teachers so they can reward children who demonstrate good character, said Principal Lynne Lanier.

"It's a wonderful complement to our character education initiatives," Lanier said.


Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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