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Secondary and Elementary School Students Collaborate on Innovative Project

Baldwin High School Students Foster Emotional Learning Through Character Dolls for Brookside Second Graders

For the second year in a row, Ms. Christina Reilly's Introduction to Teaching class at Baldwin High School, which is one of the four classes offered in the education academy pathway, embarked on a special project to craft character dolls designed to enhance social emotional learning for second-grade students at Brookside Elementary School. The unique collaboration aims to not only promote creativity but also foster empathy and emotional intelligence in the younger learners.

This year, the project differed slightly from the previous year’s project. The high school students, under the guidance of their teacher, Ms. Reilly, used this hands-on project as a tool to impart essential life skills to their younger counterparts. Each character doll was based on a character from books that the second graders chose from “The Food Group Series.” These characters represent diverse personalities and emotions that resonate with the experiences of the second graders.

Beginning with a Story: Behind the Doll Development 

The process began with second grade studying characters and their stories. These lessons were conducted by the second grade teachers at Brookside Elementary: Ms. Morgan Maus, Ms. Kristin Maldonado and Ms. Lauren Maywald. The students are working on becoming thoughtful fiction readers who think carefully about characters and their stories. They are asking and answering questions, drawing on strategies when characters are difficult to understand, and considering what the author intends for them to learn through a character’s journey. 

The teachers asked their students to draw a picture of the characters that best reflected certain emotions. Once the drawings were finalized, the high school students delved into the creative process, using felt, googly eyes and needle & thread to bring the character dolls to life. The result is a collection of vibrant and diverse character dolls, each equipped with a unique backstory that mirrors the everyday experiences of second graders. These dolls serve as interactive tools for social emotional learning, providing a tangible way for younger students to engage with and understand their own emotions as well as those of their peers. Each second grade class received a full set of dolls that they will keep in the SEL corner of their respective classrooms. 

More Than a ‘Toy’

The project extends beyond the mere creation of dolls; it includes structured activities where the high school students guide second graders in exploring emotions, problem-solving, and building positive relationships through play. This interactive element creates a bridge between the two age groups, fostering a sense of mentorship and collaboration.

Educators overseeing the initiative note the positive impact on both sets of students. The high school participants gain valuable teaching and leadership experience, while the second graders benefit from a dynamic and engaging approach to social emotional learning. The character dolls become more than just toys; they serve as catalysts for meaningful conversations about emotions, empathy, and understanding.

As education continues to evolve, innovative projects like these exemplify the power of cross-grade collaborations in promoting holistic development. The character dolls not only contribute to the academic growth of both high school and second-grade students but also leave a lasting imprint on their emotional intelligence, preparing them for the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.