DoD grant helps students accept differences

Special to Leader-Press

The warthogs are waltzing, the chimps’ cha-cha-ing, but poor Gerald the giraffe can’t seem to figure out how to make his body parts work together to dance. That is until he has a chance encounter with a friendly cricket who tells him that “sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.”
Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary School scholars and their families gathered for “Tell Me A Story Night”  funded by a Department of Defense Education Activity grant where fourth grade students began the evening by performing two songs, “Different Beat” and “Go Be Awesome,” that encourage students to celebrate their differences. 
Families were then invited to sit on cozy carpets so they could listen to a reading of the featured book, “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. The book features animals of all shapes, sizes and types participating in an annual jungle dance, but Gerald is having trouble dancing like the rest of them. After some encouragement from an unlikely friend, Gerald’s crooked knees, thin legs, and long neck are swaying and swishing around to the music. 
Teacher Cindy Thornton says this book celebrates individuality and is an inspirational story that creates a positive message for children, showing that all people are different and special in their own way.
“I loved the message conveyed through the book. Everyone is different and that is O.K.,” Thornton said.
Aside from embracing difference, the book was chosen to support the transitioning military students. Military dependent scholars continually move into the Copperas Cove school district each year and are faced with the challenges of being new and may feel left out. 
Heidi Nelson, CCISD DoDEA II Grant Director, says the book celebrates and embraces the fact that we are all different, and sends a message that nothing is impossible if you are true to yourself, believe in yourself, and are kind to those who are different.
“I appreciate that our students are benefiting from activities such as Tell Me A Story Night. The themes and messages connected to the literature and activities help our military connected students with their unique needs, as well support the needs of other children and families who attend. We want them to feel well supported and cared for,” Nelson said.  
After reading the story, families and students including 3rd grader Faith Adkins participated in some brief “book chats” to discuss the themes and important messages revealed in the story and were given a copy of the book to keep.
“I thought it was funny when the giraffe was dancing in the story. It is okay to be different and I even like some things that my family doesn’t like,” Adkins said. 

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