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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Students create constitution

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Don't say mean things. No bossing. No pushing. No secrets about others. Stay out of other's things.

These rules, and then some, were created by the third and fourth grade students at Aurelia. They have made a pledge to follow the rules throughout the school year in fact - a constitution was developed and each student signed the document which will hang in the hallway the two classes share.

The idea for the constitution came from teachers Mary Ann DePuma and Sue Ireland, who were fortunate to hear a presentation on the subject during a master's degree program three years ago.

The teachers decided to implement the plan in their school and it has been well received.

"It gives the kids ownership," DePuma said.

With many of the students taking part in the project, the first year is a learning year while the second is a continuation.

In addition to the rules, the students came up with consequences for going against the rules - and the penalties get harsher with each offense.

The students decided a warning is the first consequence, followed by receiving a red card (which is a visual consequence for all students to see), missing five minutes of recess, missing a whole reassess and apologizing in writing to whom the student offended and finally, calling home or work to tell the parents they had disobeyed the classroom rules.

"They can be a lot tougher on themselves than we feel comfortable," commented Ireland.

The classes work separately on the rules and consequences then come together to vote on the final rules and penalties, just like in a regular democracy situation.

The teachers have a hand in the wording, grouping the many "negative" rules such as those listed above to be more positive. So the rules have been edited to these:

Be responsible

Do your best

Cooperate with others

Treat yourself and others with dignity and respect

"With the rules being their own idea," DePuma said, "it hits home more."

The students are asked to say the pledge, vowing to follow the rules or suffer the consequences for the entire school year and if they feel they can do that, they are asked to sign the constitution as well.

"They have so much ownership that they want to sign," the teachers agreed.

The teachers have seen over the years that the students respect the constitution they have signed. It remains in the hall for the school year.

"I like doing this," said fourth grader Katelynn DeRoos. "We learn to be better people."

Fourth grader Matthew Swanson said seeing the constitution is a reminder for them to follow the rules - and the second year is easier than the first.

Third grader Nathan Pearson said he thinks it's good to have rules "then you know what to do and you don't do bad stuff."

Abby Anderson, another third grader went on to add, "It's good to have so everybody hopefully will follow the rules and we'll all get along." And the consequences? Well, she also believes they are necessary.

"It's easier to stick with the rules because if we had to call our parents, they wouldn't be happy."

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