Students are the stars in character-building program

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 8, 2016

 Fifth-grader Farrah Ardwin describes her passion for making movies June 3 at her school. After making a video for the school’s talent show, teacher Shannon Bowman asked her to make a video about Addams’ Family Circles to show at the June 9 Royal Oak Schools Board of Education meeting.

Fifth-grader Farrah Ardwin describes her passion for making movies June 3 at her school. After making a video for the school’s talent show, teacher Shannon Bowman asked her to make a video about Addams’ Family Circles to show at the June 9 Royal Oak Schools Board of Education meeting.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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ROYAL OAK — Building character for fifth-grader Farrah Ardwin involves a laptop, moviemaking software iMovie and an eye for detail.

The Addams Elementary School student recently was asked by Spanish teacher Shannon Bowman to produce a short movie detailing the building’s new Family Circles character-building program.

The movie is scheduled to be shown before the Royal Oak Schools Board of Education June 9 to demonstrate the program, which Bowman and Addams Principal Joseph Youanes started this year.

“Part of understanding how the program works and why it’s so cool here is seeing it in action,” Bowman said, adding that this is how she got the idea for a video. “The best way for the board to see, if they can’t come to the building and watch it in first person, is for them to see it in this type of setting.”

After seeing a film that Ardwin made for the school talent show, Bowman knew exactly whom to task with the project.

Ardwin paired up with friend Chloe Francis, and they took a little more than a month to film, edit and produce the video. They worked on the project at lunch, recess and after school.

Bowman said it was fascinating to see what they thought was important to include about the program, and to see Family Circles through their eyes.

“I’m really proud and accomplished to make a video for everyone,” Ardwin said.

Youanes became familiar with the program while working in the Troy school district before coming to Addams last year. Upton Elementary School is also running the program, which it calls “Rock Bands.”

“The thing that I love the most about it is, really, it gives our kids a chance to be in groups of kids that they never would have had a chance to be with on a regular basis,” Youanes said. “And it gives our teachers a chance to get a group of kids they may never have known.”

Youanes said it is beneficial for all students to receive the same character-building messages. He has watched bonds develop when older students pair with the little ones.

He praises the students, parents and teachers for their approval and participation, and has extra praise for Bowman, who facilitates the endeavor.

Serving as the school’s Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports coordinator, Bowman issued surveys to develop the character traits the program would focus on; coordinated with teachers to create curriculum; and planned the logistics, which was quite an undertaking considering the program required moving about 470 kids throughout the building.

“That was my biggest surprise — watching it work,” Bowman said. “It was really cool.”

Family Circles works by creating mixed groups — or families — of students in kindergarten through fifth grade who meet with an assigned teacher once a month for 40 minutes to participate in the planned character-building lesson and exercises. Topics include independence, positive attitude and accountability.

Bowman explained part of the wonder and success of the program.

“It’s not just lessons (like math or reading), they are lessons that you carry on for life — like you can’t bully people and you shouldn’t be a bystander, you should be upstanders and stuff like that,” Francis said.

Ardwin said she hopes the Board of Education understands what the program is all about after watching her movie.

“I hope they feel that Family Circles is a great program and that they would want their schools to do the program too, so hopefully it will grow and more schools will be able to do it, because it is such a great program,” she said.

Bowman said Family Circles has strengthened the school. She said character-building lessons were being taught in students’ homerooms before, but this cohesive change has made a difference.

“It’s really brought a sense of community to our building, and it’s been neat for the kids because now they have another adult in the building who is kind of looking out for them — someone else they can touch base with,” she said.

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