Story and photos by Stephen Wilson

What 7-year-old doesn’t like a balloon? Imagine giving a child the task of keeping one balloon aloft. Complicate things by throwing in a second balloon and then a third. Watch as the balloons are being batted in various directions, and the kid is darting about. If you add a fourth balloon, the kid will need help.

That’s when the child might draw upon social skills necessary to ask her peers for assistance and direction for the best way to accomplish the task. Sadly, social skills are not always part of the curriculum at most schools.

Lauren Myers, assistant professor of psychology, and students in her Lifespan Development class partnered with Paxinosa Elementary second-grade teacher Michelle Gifford to present mini-modules on social skills.

The lessons were prepared by the Lafayette students based on the Leader in Me curriculum used in Easton School District. To ensure success, the College students observed the second-grade class, developed lessons, practiced them, and received teacher and peer feedback before finally presenting them to the second-graders.

Here’s what they did.

Halloween Mad Libs

Valerie Wood ’19, Adele McGoran ’21, Kokarley Nikoi ’19, Emma Piascik ’21

Think of your favorite superhero, candy, or place. Now plug them into a funny paragraph about your school teacher. Students were cracking up as Mrs. Gifford took her pet pig in a Batgirl costume to Chuck E. Cheese. The kids worked together to select the words and build the funny story.

Friends Stick Together

Allison Gibbons ’21, Quinn Miers ’19, Alexis Santarelli ’20

Nothing like hearing a compliment. Students practiced noticing nice things about each other and passing those thoughts along. Those receiving the kind words noted how it made them feel to hear such wonderful sentiments.

Team Player

Olivia Resnick ’21, Yucen Chen ’20, Samantha DeMarse ’20, Nithya Sharma ’20

Rubber band your hands to your friends and try to untangle yourself from a human knot. It takes many skills to get untied, like talking, making requests, listening, and cooperating. Imagine the mess of that knot as the whole group is banded together!

Stop, Thought, and Roll

Rebecca Stargel ’20, Jamie Taber ’19, Dahlia Mahdavi ’21

Someone keeps bugging you in class. Or a friend walks in with the backpack you wanted to buy. What would happen if you thought about your response or choice prior to making it? Students were presented with scenarios and asked to stop, consider their response, and roll forward with the best option.

Stone Soup

Caroline Mannix ’20, Molly Conrad ’20, Katharine Siebert ’21, Karalynn Lancaster ’21

After hearing the story Stone Soup, a tale about a hungry traveler making a delicious soup with ingredients shared by many, students had to think about sharing … as they made rainbow bracelets! Not each bag had the full spectrum, so students had to work together and trade.

More Hands

Karli Herwig ’20, Dget Downey ’22, Tyler Hubeny ’20, Cristian Romero ’20

Each child was asked to color a picture. Little did they realize their portion of the picture helped to form a bigger image. Soon they were putting their pieces together to form a colorful school mascot—the Red Rover.

Work Together, Win Together Balloon

Dulcie Del Priore ’20, Annekka Chao ’20, Abigail Smith ’20, Sydney Munn ’20

One person keeping one balloon in the air is hardly a challenge. Adding more balloons quickly raises the stakes. But if friends work together, they can keep more balloons aloft.

Think Win-Win Skits

Grace Anthony ’21, Jenna Bailey ’21, Danielle Bellefeuille ’20

If one girl wants to play soccer but her friend wants to play tag, what can we do? With win-win thinking, everyone can get what they need. Students tried to think of solutions to skits that would make all parties happy.

What They’re Saying

Michelle Gifford, second-grade teacher, Paxinosa Elementary
“It’s important for my students to hear what it’s like in college, to have a conversation about school, and to realize that places like this exist outside their elementary school and in their community. Many of the Lafayette students volunteer at the community center so they already know my students. Seeing a familiar face and that the college students remember their names means so much. They really took to each other and built a relationship.”

Lauren Myers, assistant professor of psychology
“Research shows early development of social skills is important. The kids in elementary schools are learning academic skills,  but the development of social skills can also be taught. The students in my class had a lot of leeway to develop lessons that were tailored to their own skills, talents, and interests, and they aligned their lessons with the Leader in Me curriculum. I’m proud of what they developed, how creative they were, and how they made their lessons fun and age appropriate.”

Olivia Resnick ’20, double major, government & law and psychology
“My preparation for the module took place in multiple parts. First I went to Paxinosa one day in September where I spent an hour observing Mrs. Gifford’s class. I got to see the students in math and art. Then I met with my group mates and discussed what we wanted to teach the children with our lesson. Most of us have had some experience working with kids whether it be as a camp counselor or working at a daycare, so we were interested in choosing something that was interactive and fun while still teaching an important lesson. We chose the human knot as our interactive activity and created our lesson around the themes of teamwork and compromise. After we came up with our lesson we went back to Paxinosa where we presented a draft of our idea to Mrs. Gifford, Professor Myers, and some other students. My team received feedback that we then used to adjust our module to make it be what it was on the big day with the second-graders.
“As Lafayette students, we are very lucky to have the opportunity to study at such a top-notch institution, and we should take what we learn here and pass it on to others around us. Easton is such a special community, and the way Lafayette students interact with it (either through the Landis Center, academic endeavours, the arts campus down the hill, or through the football games) definitely adds to the vibrancy of the city.”

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