By Mary Catherine Karcich, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The community of students, teachers and staff at Mill Pond School, grades 4-6, strive to embody inclusivity. They presented it proudly with their Wall of Wonderful Words earlier this year.
When local organization Westborough Connects held its 3rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, Mill Pond was inspired to do its own school wide project that allowed every student to contribute.
Those who wished to participate made signs showcasing messages centered around love, acceptance and unity. Students took time to research different quotes, which principal Peter Guellnitz described as “the best part.” He highlighted how impressive it was for students to share how much they knew and what these values meant to them.
The Wall of Wonderful Words was displayed in the school’s gym. Once it was finished, students were able to see their creation and also reflect on all the quotes.
With its many bright colors, the wall gave students and staff a “Whoa!” effect. The powerful messages were a nod to inclusivity, bringing everyone together to make one united visual.
“It turned out to really be a beautiful sight and truly provided a grand visual representation of how our students see our world today,” said Guellnitz.
Spreading the message and the importance of community
To continue displaying their work, students were able to take home their signs to hang up on their front doors for others to see.
“We thought it was a good way to keep the message going,” Guellnitz explained while noting that these conversations often stop after a certain point.
The project, which took place in March, was inclusive of the school’s remote students who had the option to pick up materials or make a sign at home and submit it to their teacher.
With some students completely remote and others splitting their time between the school and home, Guellnitz recognized how the situation called for teachers and staff to ensure everyone was included.
Questions around how students are feeling, how this experience affects their learning and if they’re emotionally ready to learn were topics of conversation.
“We wanted to make sure all of our students feel like they are part of our community and they are able to feel comfortable here.”
Sticking to its values
According to Guellnitz, The Wall of Wonderful Words is just one of the many ways Mill Pond promotes acceptance and unity. He noted how teachers “do an outstanding job of leading conversations with their classes.”
Students are taught year-round about key values such as gratitude, generosity, respect and empathy.
“It’s a fluid conversation,” Guellnitz said. “Teaching elementary-aged students these key values that are important for kids to think about and apply to their lives allows them to be critical thinkers in our society.”
The theme this year for March was acceptance, which coincided with the Wall of Wonderful Words.
“I think the most important thing we wanted students to take away was to really have that idea of what it is to share love and to share unity and be part of a larger community. It was good to show as a school that we can be part of that constructive conversation around inclusion and unity.”