Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 17, 2018

The ‘Wonder’ of kindness

Mt. Pleasant Middle School students learn lesson on kindness through silver screen
Dec 12, 2017
Photo by: Karyn Spory Mt. Pleasant Middle School students were able to watch the movie, “Wonder” Monday afternoon. The film deals with bullying. Students were able to see the movie thanks to donations from local businesses and organizations.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

“The movie has started,” Tom Lowe yelled to the sixth-graders from Mt. Pleasant Middle School who were clustered by the concession stand at Main Street Cinema “Don’t let your belly get in your way; it’s starting now.”

A group of students looked between the express line, which offered popcorn and a pop for $2, and the doorway nestled below the red neon lights that read “Wonder.”

“Wonder” is based on the New York Times best selling book of the same name, which follows Auggie Pullman, a fifth-grader who was born with facial differences that previously had kept him home-schooled. As Auggie enters middle school, he has to confront bullying, but through his journey he teaches his family, classmates and community about compassion and acceptance. On Monday, students at the Mt. Pleasant Middle School went through this journey with Auggie as they attended a screening of the film at Main Street Cinemas.

The idea to take the students to see the movie came from social studies teacher Heather Applegate. “Heather saw the movie over the weekend and was very moved by it,” said Kendra Ruschill, a middle school social studies teacher and one of the faculty members that organized the screening. “She couldn’t help but think that every middle schooler needed to see this movie.”

Once Ruschill and her colleague Nicki Ensminger heard about Applegate’s idea, they began making phone calls. After district administration approved the screening, Ruschill called the local movie theater. Because Main Street Cinema does not own the film, the distributing company required the theater to charge $5 per person. That meant the middle school would need $2,200 to get the students in the theater seats.

“We started to think about who we could contact for donations,” said Ruschill.

It didn’t take long however, for the community to respond. Noon Rotary, the Mt. Pleasant Community School District and Innovairre all made donations. “Innovairre didn’t just make a donation,” said Ruschill, “they put it out to their staff and they made personal donations as well.” Scott and Amy Lowe, who own Main Street Cinemas also made a donation, besides opening up their theater and providing staff for the event.

“We’re really blessed to live in this community,” said Middle School Principal Nathan Lange.

Lange said he was enthusiastic for his students to see the film because it sends such a positive message — one they’re trying to spread throughout the school.

“We’ve been making this a focus in our school, how we treat each other, over the last month-and-a-half. When this opportunity came, we thought it would be a great kick off,” he said indicating the school has several events dealing with empathy, compassion and anti-bullying for after the winter break. “We want to have a school where we’re building toward a community minded, family focused school. We want kids to be happy when they come to school and just thought this was a great way to kick that campaign off.”

Superintendent John Henriksen said middle school is a crucial time in a child’s life and to develop empathy and understanding is very important. “I think that’s really what “Wonder” was about. And it brought it out in an outstanding and really beautiful way.”

“We teach academics,” continued Henriksen, “but sometimes when we have the opportunity to teach some of those other good people skills, it’s really important and I’m so glad our teachers saw the value and pushed forward with it. I’m so grateful to our community for their support.”

Two of those giving their support were Tom and Betty Lowe, whose son owns the theater. On Monday they were on hand to help out with the three showings. Seventh-graders arrived at the theater at 8:30 a.m. Sixth-graders followed at 10:30 a.m. and eighth-graders saw the film after lunch.

“It’s very exciting and it’s a wonderful movie,” said Betty. “The kids are so appreciative and so polite. (And the teachers) are doing an awesome job.”

“I just think the movie has a great lesson and examples for our young people to experience when they’re in middle school,” added Tom.

Once the popcorn had been buttered, pops filled and seats picked, the sound of snacks being munched on filled the theater. The symphony of chewing was momentarily interrupted by cheering when Auggie made his first appearance on screen. And again when he made his first friend. There were gasps and groans when Auggie begins to be bullied by his classmate Julian.

“It was very emotional,” sixth-grader Josie Gilmore said after the movie.

“Yeah, I cried,” classmate Andi Scott added.

Gilmore and Scott had sat with friends Emma Starr, Natalie McCormick and Bailey Jalas. And once the movie had ended, they each bubbled with commentary and take-aways.

Starr said she found the film “very informative.” “It showed us how you make other people feel when you’re mean,” she said. Something, the sixth-graders say happens quite a bit at school.

When asked what they might do if Auggie transferred to their school, McCormick said she would try to become friends with him.

“I would stand up for him and make him feel welcome at our school,” said Gilmore.

“I would stay with him through everything,” Jalas said refecting back on Auggie’s journey.

Before the girls left the theater, McCormick said that although Auggie was the focus of the movie, she learned something from Julian. McCormick said Julian learned that he was being a bully and she felt he was remorseful in the end.

Ben Newton, Payton Heggins and Brandon Daughorty all said their take-away from the movie is that it’s important to be respectful to everyone, no matter what they look like.

Before the students left the theater to go back to school, Mr. Lange stood on stage to applaud the students for their behavior during the film. ”I’m so proud of you right now.”

Lange also wanted to make sure the students knew why they were able to watch the film.

“Here’s why your teachers did it, here’s why the community did it for us — because they believe in us. They believe that you can make a difference not only in your school, but in your community. So as the movie says ‘when you have the choice between being right and being kind,’ we as Panthers will be ...”

To which the students roared out, “kind.”

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