Cedar Rapids private, public school students discover their similarities

Teachers collaborate to bring sixth-graders together for poetry project

Published: March 31 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:21 am in

Franklin and Regis middle schools in Cedar Rapids are only a couple of blocks from each other, but as far as their students were concerned, they might as well have been in different cities. The students at Franklin, a public school, and Regis, a private Catholic school, rarely interacted.

Regis sixth grade language arts teacher Barb Sullivan wanted to change that.

“We’ve been neighbors for years and never done anything together,” she said. “We wanted to also show the kids that really the students are just the same, that really there’s not any difference.”

She and three other language arts teachers, one from Regis and two from Franklin, collaborated to bring their sixth-graders together to discuss what makes them different and learn what makes them the same.

The students at each school wrote, “I Am” poems about what makes them unique. Then they met in small groups with students from the other school to write group, “We Are” poems about the things they shared.

They filmed the results, and the videos will be viewed by all the students after spring break.

In the process, about 370 sixth-graders who participated learned they were more similar than they expected.

Many of them said they thought they would have more differences — but the biggest difference they could come up with was that Regis students wear uniforms and Franklin students do not.

“The only thing separate is just our clothes,” Regis student Anna Carter said. “We have the same interests and personalities.”

That’s just what Franklin teacher Chris Edgerton was hoping to hear.

“The goal is community building. The idea is you might be in a different place than we are, but we’re all the same,” she said. “I think kids need to understand they can succeed no matter where they are.”

Regis teacher Jari Hagen said the project fit in well with Regis’ curriculum.

“All the novels we’ve chosen this year are about diversity and not passing judgment,” she said. “It’s about community.”

She and other teachers said they hope small steps now, like getting to know students two blocks away, will help the kids learn to keep open minds in the future.

“Our schools are working together to teach our children to be able to work as a community later in life and understand that everyone has connections,” Hagen said.

Many of the students said they’ll walk away from their week of working together with new friends.

“People are the same. We almost all have the same likes,” Franklin student Ethan Sullivan said.

Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@sourcemedia.net

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