School Spotlight: Sunset Hill Elementary
The school year may be winding down, but there’s still an important task to accomplish. The fifth graders at Sunset Hill Elementary in Plymouth are practicing for the spring play.
Only this year, the production is a little different.
“They’re working on making a bucket of peace, and they each created their own idea of what they thought peace looked like,” said Lori Finn, a fifth-grade teacher.
Finn has been working alongside a professional from the Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins for the past week as part of a program called ‘Perspectives on Peace.’
“So every single one of our four, fifth-grade classrooms, is actually creating their own improvised, impromptu pieces,” Finn said. “They’re not scripted ahead of time. The kids are coming up with the ideas and scripts as we go.”
Each class had its own take on what peace looks like, or means, to them.
“The kids have just been amazing with their ability to put together ideas and come up with ways to dramatize it,” Finn said.
Another component of the program is that, unlike traditional plays, all of the students get to participate. That’s an important fact, considering that some of the kids have never seen live theater.
“So them being able to be part of something within their school day without families having to put money forth out of pocket, our PTSA has been wonderful and has helped fund this,” Finn said.
Sunset Hill Touts Diversity
That’s not the only thing wonderful about Sunset Hill, according to Principal Ross Williams.
“Sometimes people ask me specifically about what’s one thing that comes to mind when you think of Sunset Hill, and I really do think the diversity is really a piece of it that makes us who we are,” Williams said.
Roughly 675 students in grades K-5 attend Sunset Hill. Sixty-two percent are white, and the rest consists of Asian, African-American and Hispanic. Williams says a total of 21 different languages are spoken among the families here.
“What makes us unique is that diversity,” Williams said. “The differences that we bring to the table and different perspectives.”
Resolving Conflict Through “Restorative Practice”
Yet while Sunset Hill may be unique, you’ll find that just like any school, students have disagreements with one another. But the difference here is that they teach kids how to resolve their conflicts.
“I mean if you’re really gonna get to the bottom of an issue, you have to have two people sitting across the table and maybe an adult facilitating that conversation,” Williams said.
It’s a concept known as “restorative practice.” At least one student said she liked the process.
“Most of our conflicts started where people wouldn’t understand one another,” said Amal Gurre, a fifth-grader. “And when we talked about it, it really helped, cause then we could know the other person’s feelings and what they’re thinking.”
Conflict resolution is one skill that won’t end up on any exam, and Williams considers that a source of pride.
“I think sometimes we really do forget that school is not just about adding and subtracting, social studies, or a science class,” Williams said. “It really is about how we relate to and work with differing perspectives and people. How we collaborate to solve problems.”