On Wednesday, November 15, 2017 students at Aventura City of Excellence School celebrated a special Upstander Day. As part of the school’s theme of focusing on cultivating connections and empowering students to make good choices, teachers present grade level lessons that show students how to interact with others in positive, helpful ways. By being an “upstander” and not a bystander, students learn to play an active role to ensure others are treated fairly and that no one is excluded in their school community.
In addition to in-class lessons, students were also introduced to ACES new “Upstander Bench.” The concept was proposed by Laura Kitaigorodsky, a parent of two students at ACES. After reading an article about how some kids feel lonely at school, especially during recess, she learned how other communities have utilized “buddy benches” to make students feel more included. Ms. Kitaigorodsky presented the idea to classroom teachers and the school’s principal, Ms. Julie Alm, who loved the idea and agreed to implement an “upstander bench.”
“At ACES we strive to imbue students with a sense of moral character that encourages them to demonstrate empathy,” says Ms. Alm. “The upstander bench provides a means for students to reach out to peers and ensure they feel included.”
The bench was installed on the playground near the basketball courts. The idea is that when a student is feeling isolated during recess, he or she will sit on the bench and others will come over to that student to invite him or her to join them in their activity or to start up a conversation. “The upstander bench helps kids during recess not to feel left out,” Ms. Kitaigorodsky says, “but it also gives the opportunity for the rest of the students to be modern heroes and help others.”
Students watched a video showing the unveiling of the bench, which was painted by Claudio Roncoli, a local Wynwood artist who originates from Argentina and loves to use vibrant colors and balance in his artwork. He used the concept “Be a Hero, Be an Upstander!” to develop the colorful design. The star is meant to represent people, as many superheroes wear stars on their uniforms, and the heart is the universal symbol of love. The geometric rainbow ascends like an abstract tree with branches that bend, like arms hugging around someone. “I believe that calling someone a ‘hero’ is a contemporary concept that students can relate to and apply to real life,” Claudio says. “Not everyone has the courage to help someone in need, so I think it is wonderful to say: Help someone, be a hero!”
The goal is that the upstander bench will encourage students to feel empowered to initiate contact with a peer and ensure all students can make connections with their classmates. It will forever be a symbol of unity and togetherness at ACES!
To see more of Claudio’s work, click here!
To learn more about Aventura City of Excellence School , go to www.aventuracharter.org . The School is located at 3333 NE 188th Street, Aventura, FL 33180, Phone: 305-466-1499.