Eighth-graders take their stands

Right to bear arms

Armed teachers

Police brutality

Gun control

Child labor

LGBTQ rights

Climate change 

These are just some of the social issues that eighth-graders recently researched, documented, and wrote about as part of an English language arts assignment. 

The classes read the Newbery Medal-winning novel, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” which explores racism and life in rural Mississippi. ELA teachers then engaged their students with an activity that allowed them to express their own thoughts and feeling about an important issue, much as Mildred D. Taylor had done in “Roll of Thunder.” 

“We want kids to become interested in the world around them and learn how to powerfully express their views,” said teacher Debra Dickerson. “With this project, we wanted them to take a stand.” 

The teachers developed a list of social causes and asked the eighth-graders to select the ones that interested them most. Based on the stated preferences, the teachers formed teams of two and three students from different ELA classes and sent them off to research the topics. 

Many students, such as Christopher Tava, were already connected in some way to the issues they chose.

“When I was in Las Vegas, I went to the shooting memorial that was set up [honoring the victims of the 2017 incident],” said Chris, who researched gun control and gun violence with Mia Obelink. “I was really moved. People don’t take the issue of gun control and background checks seriously.” 

The teams documented their research and took positions, which they presented on posters and in one-page fact sheets. During a gallery walk, all the students went from class to class to view each other’s work and to hear their peers summarize their stands. 

As a culmination to the assignment, the students wrote essays about the importance of their causes.


MOPD Officer Michael Carletta answers a question posed by Armann Shankar

Researching the MOPD

Sixth-graders in the school’s gifted and talented program are researching the history of the Mount Olive Police Department. The multimedia presentation that they create from their research will be presented in March as part of “Living Voices,” an initiative by the Morris County Historical Society and the New Jersey Consortium for Gifted and Talented Programs.

“Living Voices” focuses on oral history; first-hand video testimonials bring to life important events, organizations, and experiences through the eyes of local residents.  

The sixth-graders are interviewing and recording conversations with MOPD police officers both past and present. MOPD Officer Michael Carletta, a seven-year veteran of the force, recently spoke to students in the school library. In front of video cameras and recording cell phones, he answered student questions about his academy training, the inspiration for his law enforcement career, and the technology used in policework. Officer Carletta showed students a video about a license plate reader in patrol cruisers that automatically brings up information about suspect vehicles. 

Sixth grade G&T students have participated in “Living Voices” for several years. A history of Budd Lake and the branches of the military as seen through the eyes of local veterans were the topics in the two previous years. 

A presentation of the MOPD research project is planned for parents in May.

Officer Carletta discusses the use of technology in law enforcement

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