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Taylorsville Journal

Students developing superpowers at Bennion Elementary

Feb 27, 2019 05:04PM ● By Jet Burnham

Signs of superhero training are found in every hallway at Bennion Elementary. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Bennion Elementary has become a training school for superheroes. 

With a cape and a mask added to their mascot, a superhero twist has been applied to everything from leadership programs and family activities to homework folders and classroom decorations. Students are constantly reminded to BE (Bennion Elementary) Heroes.

“I think this theme is one that students can relate to easily, as superheroes are prevalent right now in movies—it's something that makes sense to them,” said third-grade teacher Tracy Bell.

At the beginning of the year, students were challenged to discover what makes them a superhero, identify their strengths and qualities, and think about how to activate these as superpowers to help others and overcome personal challenges.

Bethany Johnson, Bennion Elementary’s social worker, models this philosophy for students.

She tells them, “I may not have superhuman strength, but I have a lot of strength to talk about hard things and find answers.” She reminds students that all people deal with hard things in their life. 

“Every hero has an origin story, and every hero had adversity that they had to overcome,” said Johnson. “They used those things to become the great people that they are.” Likewise, she speaks with students of how they can use adversity—losing a parent, moving away from their home, experiencing scary situations—to fuel their strength and to help others.

Bell inspires her students to find the power within themselves to do hard things, continually reinforcing the fact they each have unique strengths and powers.

Bell also arms students with the superpower of words such as "yet" to help her students establish a growth mindset.

Reframing discouraging thoughts into “I don't understand a concept or skill—yet,” or “I’m not at a certain level in reading—yet,” helps students see their progress toward success.

Teachers at the school have embraced the theme in their classrooms, including having superheroes in classroom décor, tools and projects.

Kindergarten teacher Lynette Andrew teaches many concepts through books that incorporate superheroes, such as “Even Superheroes Make Mistakes,” written by Shelly Becker and illustrated by Eda Kaban. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

First-grade teacher Sandra Funk has filled her classroom with superhero-themed posters of class rules and schoolwide expectations of being respectful, responsible, safe and kind.

“I teach first grade, so posters are a great visual reminder for these young learners,” said Funk.

Superheroes can be found on behavior charts, job charts, counting visuals and bathroom passes in Lynette Andrew’s kindergarten classroom. With the superhero theme, she encourages her students to discover what makes them special. She said it is especially empowering for those who don’t excel in the outward skills that society usually celebrates.

Andrew, who has taught for 21 years, said many 5-year-olds feel powerless in their lives. She teaches them the superpower of being proactive so they can take control of how they will react to a situation.

“I think it empowers them and makes them feel that they have a choice,” she said. “When in kindergarten, kids don’t feel like they really do have a choice on much of anything.” 

Her students also love reading about super heroes. Andrew and Funk both use picture books about superheroes and leadership concepts they can relate to superhero powers.

Principal Jane McClure said every school activity this year has had a superhero spin—assemblies, quarterly good behavior rewards, leadership award luncheons. Students dressed up as superheroes for the Daddy-Daughter Dance in January and will again for the Mother and Son Game Night planned for March.

Even the annual sixth-grade Wax Museum, when students research and then portray a historical figure, focused on heroes in history who used their superpowers to make world better place.

Nathan Bentley chose to highlight Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press as his hero.

“He was a hero because he obviously changed the world, and he helped a lot of people be able to read; we probably wouldn’t have a school without it,” he said. Nathan built a model printing press out of cardboard, demonstrating that his creativity and love of building is his superpower.

“I like to come up with ideas and create things,” he said. “I like to build things out of what I have. I hope I’m making something that’s going to change the world.”

Miranda Canton dressed up in her great-grandmother’s clothes and jewelry to portray Lucille Ball, whose superpower, she determined, was humor.

“She was just a really sweet and funny person to cheer everybody up,” she said. Miranda said she used this same superpower to befriend a girl who was being bullied. By telling jokes and cheering her up, Miranda became her best friend.

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