“Love, not fear,” was the motto for two classes of second-graders who made videos to tell classmates that, even though they are young, they can make a difference through activism.

A group of children in one video said, “You don’t need big muscles, just a strong spirit, purpose, mind and a gentle heart.”

Students at Hawthorne Elementary recently watched the two videos created by their peers.

The videos, “The Story of Rosa Parks” and “Activist Movie” left their viewers saying they felt hopeful, inspired, and proud of today’s young people.

“As an educator I was thinking of the powerful work the teachers had done with their kids — how they incorporated reading, writing, research, presentation and communication skills, and videography,” Principal Deb Jacobsen said. “As a person my heart was just huge. I was so proud of them and so hopeful for our country and our community as I watched what these kids created.”

Willa McArdle, one of the students in the videos, said she wasn’t nervous during the filming because it is important to tell people they can’t be silent— which was one of her lines.

The endeavor showed the students how unfairly African Americans were once treated, and that surprised Justin Toffelmire.

After the video research, Toffelmire said he intended to find ways he could be an activist for the Earth at school by recycling more and encouraging his friends and teachers to do the same.

The teachers behind the project are Katie Wright and Christy Benning. They say having children teach children is an effective approach.

“The process is the most important part,” Benning said. “When they can teach it to someone else they have a deeper understanding. I definitely believe all the other kids are engaged because when their peers are sending out the message, it’s way more powerful than when they get the message from adults.”

“I think anytime you give students the opportunity to go from a learner to a teacher, it solidifies the learning and empowers them,” Wright said. “It’s almost like you imply the question, ‘What do you think?’ It’s empowering to be asked your thoughts and opinions on stuff.”

The annual project allows the teachers to incorporate a number of subjects — history, social studies, reading, writing and technology — into one. And maybe most importantly, it addresses questions about equality, Wright said.

“There’s a certain level of tolerance and sense of equality that kids have, and the younger you teach these kinds of concepts, the more likely it is they might hold on to them,” Wright said.

She said she hopes students will now think about the situations they researched and apply what they learned to other situations.

“I hope they think about being an activist in general and watching out for situations where people are being treated unfairly,” Wright said.

Lea Hohenlohe said Rosa Parks was brave when she refused to sit in the back of the bus to make room for another white passenger, and she wondered if she could be as brave.

“Maybe I could if I tried really hard,” Hohenlohe said.

Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

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