Wildwood Elementary School adopts school constitution at convention ceremony in Amherst

  • Janiya Lewis, 8, hands a copy of the Wildwood Constitution to Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman during a assembly where the students at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst presented the document to the rest of the school. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Students at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst present the Wildwood Constitution to the rest of the school. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Matthew Vassallo and Collin Glennon, during an assembly at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst where students presented the Wildwood Constitution to the rest of the school. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Darcy Dwyer during an assembly at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst where students presented the Wildwood Constitution to the rest of the school. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/4/2016 6:57:56 PM

AMHERST — The Wildwood Elementary School Constitution is now the law of the land at the Amherst school, with students and teachers agreeing to abide by the supreme document adorned with flashy silver stars.

Students worked on their constitution for the past three weeks, approving its conditions first by class, then grade and ending with the entire school. The process was run by principal Nick Yaffe and involved students in grades three through six.

A ratification assembly took place in the school’s gymnasium Friday with students, parents, faculty and guests on hand.

“One of our principles here is to have students take responsibility for their own learning, and this is an opportunity to do that,” said Yaffe.

Before the assembly began and the audience filed in, Yaffe delivered a pep talk to the 32 student delegates preparing to present.

“There’s no such thing as mistakes today…. I want you to feel like whatever you say today will be perfect,” he said.

The constitution presented a handful of statements to live by: include everyone, never deny someone who asks to play, respect others and their ideas, try hard and don’t give up, use materials safely and responsibly and be the best person you can be.

As each statement was read off, the delegates guided the audience in repeating it.

One student sitting in the delegate seats was Darcy Dwyer, 10, a fourth-grader who had the privilege of speaking twice during the assembly.

“It was a lot of work at the beginning because we all had to work together and figure out how to do this right, what rules we should have and if the kindergarteners could understand it. But at the end it was super fun to be in front of all these really nice people,” she said.

Her sister, Nell Dwyer, 11, was one of the sixth-grade delegates. She was chosen to step up to the microphone and describe how the constitution was made.

Nell said it was exciting to work with younger students because it brought her back to when she was their age.

She said that she really enjoyed participating in the project, but that it did require a great deal of effort. In fact, Nell made the ultimate elementary school sacrifice — she worked on the constitution during not one, not two, but three recesses in a week.

However, all that time resulted in her gaining a significant amount of knowledge.

“I learned that everyone has different perspectives… and everyone’s input is really important,” she said.

The sisters agreed that they were pleased with the finished product.

“I was really proud of it because we all worked so hard to make it,” Darcy said. “It came from all of our hard work.”

Darcy and Nell’s parents were among the audience members.

To their father, Tom Dwyer, it was inspirational that the principal was so happy to engage in the meaningful leadership opportunity.

He said that he observed his daughters growing a lot throughout the process. It taught them significant lessons about compromise, coming to a solution, responsibility and teamwork.

“I think it’s really important to learn about how real life and a real job as an adult isn’t just about knowing math and English; it’s about navigating different personalities,” he said.

Third grade teacher Mary Fournier also said the constitution was a fun way to teach students more mature life skills.

“It’s a good way to allow kids to make a connection between being kids in school, and kids in society,” she said.

Her students were excited to work on the document that the class’s delegates would attempt to leave class early. They rushed to the door clutching their lunchbox when they were working on the constitution during lunch.

A copy of the constitution will be put in Fournier’s classroom, as well as every other room in the school. Yaffe said they will also be sent home with students for parents to see.

Students individually handed copies of the constitution to a row of respected guests at the assembly, which included state Rep. Ellen Story and the Democratic nominee to replace her, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, Police Chief Scott Livingstone, school board leaders Phoebe Hazzard and Katherine Appy, Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson, Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Superintendent Michael Morris, liaison police officer William Laramee, and police Lt. William Menard.

The assembly wrapped up with a song including the words of the constitution that had the whole gymnasium singing along.

Parents and faculty proceeded to give the students a standing ovation for their efforts.


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