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Off the Beat City Schools: Students at R.K. Finn inspire classmates to follow recess safety rules

Students play basketball during the second and third grade noon recess at R.K. Finn Ryan Road School in Northampton. Delegates from the classes convened in November to draft a set of Recess Safety Rules.
KEVIN GUTTING

Students play basketball during the second and third grade noon recess at R.K. Finn Ryan Road School in Northampton. Delegates from the classes convened in November to draft a set of Recess Safety Rules. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

When recess aide Sue Lucey commented that students “don’t own the rules,” something clicked for Riddle. Inspired by the Responsive Classroom program, which the school has been using since 2002, she asked teachers to choose two delegates from each grade to agree on rules for safety.

Two meetings and 70 ideas later, the 12 delegates had narrowed the list to fit on one page. Three guiding rules are “play safe, have fun and be kind.” Specific rules are also given for swings and other play structures, slides, sports, “violent play” and chase games. Some examples: “No twisting on the swings,” “be fair choosing teams” and “only tag people who want to play.”

In an interview in the school library, delegates explained why the effort has helped bolster playground safety. “Grown-ups might make rules that aren’t any fun, like no running on the grass,” said fourth-grader Tali Sieber.

“If kids make the rules, they’ll follow them,” noted third-grader Katelyn Stankowski.

Riddle said delegates were persuasive about their ideas. For example, after she questioned why they wanted to include “no swearing” in the official rules, “they explained that if people are swearing they might make others mad and get into fights,” she said.

When asked what they learned from being safety delegates, second-grader Lexi Katz said, “Not every single rule is important but most of them are because you could get hurt.”

As to what advice they’d give students at other schools about safety, Sieber said, “I wouldn’t give them the exact rules because I’d want them to come up with their own.”

Other safety delegates for the school include Travis Emerson, Luke Sasser, kindergarten; Sean Zadworny, Alex Martinez, first grade; Josh Denley, second grade; Taylor Lucey, third grade; Anna Heller, fourth grade; and Maddie Sellers, Ben Fowler, fifth grade.

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Booster Club benefit

The Northampton Athletic Booster Club will hold its fourth annual Comedy Night fundraiser Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Florentine Room of the Bluebonnet Diner on King Street. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by contacting Northampton High School Athletic Director Jim Miller at 587-1356 or jmiller@northampton-k12.us. Proceeds will be used for equipment, uniforms and other needs of the school’s sports programs.

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Poetry slam results

The winner of this year’s Poetry Slam at Northampton High School was a first-time contestant in the creative competition.

“I just wanted to see what it was like to read poetry in front of people,” said senior Joel McAuslin, who took first prize for “Oh God, Not Another One.”

McAuslin cited singer-songwriter Tom Waits as partial inspiration for his work, noting, “I just listened to a lot of his songs and wrote what came to my mind.”

His poem begins: “I can’t think/I can’t breathe/ I’m not a poet, I’m just self-centered/ I once met a woman/ On a dimly lit curb/ She did not know the way to the hotel/ But she knew all about the cruel ways of the world.”

Was it scary to read his work in front of an all-school audience?

“Surprisingly, no,” said McAuslin. He received $100 for his writing and performing efforts.

Second prize in the 15th annual slam, which drew 60 students, was a tie between sophomores Christina Strauss-Kennedy and Emily Tan. Junior Norma Jean Haynes took third place. Senior Elijah Lucey won the audience prize and honorable mentions went to freshmen Samantha Leahan and Mateo Rivera, juniors Nadine Harris and Grace Smith Eilenberg and seniors Galit Sarvet and Melanie Tan.

Barbara Solow can be reached at bsolow@gazettenet.com.

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