STEM middle school students "Choose Kind"


This summer, students in Dr. Ruth Oswald’s Teaching Multiple Texts through Genre class got a special teaching treat – working with 65 learners from the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) STEM School. Oswald’s students became mentors to fifth through eighth graders for an imaginative and inventive summer reading program.

Book:  Wonder by RJ PalacioThe Cyber Café Summer Reading Program is housed through the STEM school and is a common reading program for their 300 students. Over the course of the summer, the middle-schoolers had to read the book “Wonder” by RJ Palacio using a variety of e-readers. Sixty-five of the students voluntarily took the opportunity to work with College of Education pre-service teachers over three weeks and to meet a real life “Auggie” at the end of their class. 

Auggie is the lead character in the common reading program book. Born with a facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life until fifth grade when he enters public school. The book deals with issues that most students face on a day-to-day basis, while also touching on his multiple surgeries.

The COE student mentors were on hand for each of the three sessions with the STEM middle school students to facilitate group discussions on the book and to help design unique book projects to be shared on the last day of class.

On the last day of class, students presented their group project surrounding the book and met Peter, the real-life Auggie. Peter was born with a craniofacial abnormality and has undergone more than 20 surgeries in his short thirteen years. Peter Skyped with the class from Northern Michigan and helped to answer their questions about his life, interests and what it’s like being in his shoes.

A “bonus” that was discovered through this project was the development of a new spin on the STEM school’s bullying prevention program. One of the themes that resonates throughout the book is to “choose kind” - to be aware of those around you and to always act with kindness before anything. To that end, the STEM school is changing their bullying prevention program to a “Choose Kind” program. Administrators feel that the students will react well to this positive approach to dealing with their peers.

All in all, it was a wonderful summer reading program for the students at the STEM middle school and a great hands-on experience for the College of Education students. We love win-win opportunities in the College of Education!

Peter, the Real-life Auggie

The STEM students Skyped with Peter during the Cyber Café Summer Reading Program.

STEM students thank Peter with a standing ovation

The STEM students thanked Peter for Skyping with them by giving him a standing ovation.