Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Icebreaker bingo has students talking and meeting new people and completing their ‘bingo’ card that once done ensures that they have met and shared many questions and answers.
Icebreaker bingo has students talking and meeting new people and completing their ‘bingo’ card that once done ensures that they have met and shared many questions and answers.
Armed with new identities, which protect their own, students are moved like chess pieces when answering questions about their new privileges and obstacles that they face.
Armed with new identities, which protect their own, students are moved like chess pieces when answering questions about their new privileges and obstacles that they face.
Sharing how they feel about important topics allow our middle schoolers to take their experiences they had at Stimson back to their friends at their home schools.
Sharing how they feel about important topics allow our middle schoolers to take their experiences they had at Stimson back to their friends at their home schools.
Ms. Marisa Seslowsky from the Huntington Youth Bureau Project Excel program talks with a couple of students after one of the team building events.
Ms. Marisa Seslowsky from the Huntington Youth Bureau Project Excel program talks with a couple of students after one of the team building events.
Through sharing and listening, students begin to absorb that they all play an equally significant part in making up the Town of Huntington.
Through sharing and listening, students begin to absorb that they all play an equally significant part in making up the Town of Huntington.

Stimson Middle School hosted the first annual ‘Heart of Huntington’ student summit at the beginning of March.  Visiting schools included Northport, East Northport, Half Hollow Hills, Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor, and Harborfields.  All of the participating middle schools sent approximately five students to Stimson where they participated in team-building activities and exercises embracing individual differences. The ‘Heart of Huntington’ is the brainchild of Stimson teacher Mike DePaula. “We are all here this morning for a series of activities that will allow us to appreciate each other's similarities while embracing our differences, said Mr. DePaula to the assembled students.

The summit took months of planning and the unfortunate irony was that it took place not long after the Parkland, Florida school shooting. “A day like today could not have occurred at a more important time in our school year,” said Mr. DePaula.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Wildcat, a Knight, a Blue Devil, a Tiger or Seahawk, what matters here today is the message that we’re all equal members of the same community.”

The morning’s events were well coordinated by the Town of Huntington Youth Bureau‘s Project Excel program. One of the activities featured a bingo-style  ‘No Place for Hate Scavenger Hunt,’ that served as a wonderful Ice Breaker.  Another popular activity was aptly named ‘Privilege Activity’ and students were given new identifications that they would take on to help identify obstacles and benefits experienced by their new identity. In a Slam Poetry exercise, students used topics that affect their age in situations giving them an outlet to voice difficult themes in their life as an individual or a whole community.

“I think it's important that middle school students in the township of Huntington see that they have a lot more in common than they would have known, had an event like this not taken place,” added Mr. DePaula. “We hope that this is the beginning of something that will snowball throughout Long Island as students from different communities meet their peers to find similarities while embracing their differences.”