I am really excited to post about our Swooper Citizens lesson on understanding.  When Ms. Atkinson and I met this summer to complete the lesson plans for each character trait, we strived to include an activity each week that would resonate with the students. We were completely on target this week.

The definition of understanding we wanted to portray is that understanding is to sympathize with or tolerate. In building students’ ability to sympathize and tolerate, I asked a close friend of mine, Amber, to visit our class and make a presentation to the students that illustrates perfectly why we all need to have the character trait of understanding.

Amber has a four year old son, Andrew. Andrew has the most infectious smile. He loves all things Barney and is following in his mothers footsteps, becoming an artist.


Andrew was born with one hand. He was also born with Down Syndrome. I asked Amber to come to class to share with the students how Andrew does many of the same things as the students, just a little differently.

I shared a few pictures of Andrew with the class before Amber arrived.



We briefly discussed Andrew’s visible differences and ways in  which we could kindly ask his mom questions.

When Amber arrived, I showed the students two video clips of Andrew. These videos are a great example of ways Andrew does almost all the regular things that we do!

Amber shared some insights with the students about how Andrew navigates the play structure or how he brushes his teeth. Students asked questions like, “How does Andrew swing on the swing set?” or “Can he use a climbing wall?” (Yes, in fact, he does use the climbing wall where Amber teaches.)


Andrew surfs.


And, like his mom, he is an artist.

I asked Amber to share a thought that was most important to her that the students learned from the discussion. Here is what she so eloquently said:

Real.  If everyone follows Amber’s advice, what a different world it would be.

After she left, students listened to the book, There’s a Skunk in My Bunk, by Joseph T. McCann. This book reiterated the message Amber presented. It also brought up the concept of tolerance. Here is a summary from Amazon:

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“When a young boy finds a shivering skunk snuggled in his bunk bed on a cold autumn night, he is horrified and orders the animal out of his house. After all, skunks are nasty, smelly creatures, right? Frightened, the skunk finds the courage to stand his ground, defending himself and others like him. As these two strangers come to know each other, the boy learns that he must think for himself and not prejudge others.

This appealingly illustrated, humorous tale with its important message of tolerance for others identifies — and discourages — stereotypic thinking in children.”

The book was a great read and gave students am additional perspective on understanding.

To add an additional perspective, we showed the students this video clip, tying the word understanding to empathy.

We ended this very full lesson by students writing in their Swooper Citizens journals.  Here are some excerpts.

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Success! Students received the message about understanding loud and clear.

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One thought on “Understanding

  1. Oh Mieke, Elyse and Amber! – thank you all so much. What a moving presentation and class teaching. It is much appreciated. Ciara

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