Saturday, February 27, 1999

Beating odds is key lesson for students

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Travis Renow stood on one leg before a roomful of Conner Middle School eighth-graders and squawked like a chicken. Matt Deirig tried to golf a hole in one. Ashley Ainsworth stuffed two pieces of gum into her mouth and tried to blow a bubble faster than three other students.

        The exercises were part of a monthlong lesson about overcoming fear.

        Students spent Black History Month researching people who overcame great odds. They wrote reports and made posters about racial and religious leaders, artists and sci entists, the famous and the unknown.

        “Don't give up on your goals,” is what John Bongen learned.

        Whitney Erskine said her study of Queen Victoria “taught you that famous people have troubles, too.”

        Students learned that basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar overcame racism as a child in New York City. Elie Weisel survived the Holocaust to write about his experiences. Sadako Sasaki used courage to fight leukemia.

        To celebrate the students' successes, student teacher Tom Abshire and language arts teacher Barbara Turner had a party. Mr. Abshire quizzed students on what they learned with a trivia game. Ms. Turner directed students in role-playing skits, asking them to do somewhat embarrassing things.

        Students were divided into four teams, forcing them to work together. The winning team could be first in line for pizza.

        Trivia questions were written by students. When Oprah Winfrey was growing up, what were her only friends? Who was the baseball Hall of Famer born in Baltimore?

        “The basic lesson is to have courage and belief in yourself,” Ms. Turner said. Then she asked a student to spin a hula hoop around her waist and sing the first few lines of the Barney song: “I love you, you love me. We're a happy family.”

        For the record, Oprah Winfrey's childhood friends were books. And Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore.


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