A novel that was introduced to eighth grade students this year inspired them to share their most personal thoughts with each other and the Thursday.
The novel, SPEAK, is a story about a high school freshman named Melinda who is raped and is later ostracized by her friends and peers. In the book, Melinda is faced with an art project which includes choosing an object that represents her and finding her own way to create a representation of that object. She creates a tree.
Eighth grade English teacher Maren Baum encouraged her students this year to create their own trees in whatever way they would like and to explain how their trees related to their lives. The month-long project was designed to help the students learn to express themselves.
"[This project] is the result of students reading the novel and becoming engaged and interested," Richard Butler Principal Andrea Vladichak told the board Thursday.
Baum thanked the board for allowing the book to become part of this year's curriculum.
"This book has really opened doorways for our students," she said.
As the students presented their trees to the board, several read aloud essays that explained the meaning of the project to them and the significance of their trees.
"My tree took many shapes and personalities," said Brielle Logan.
Logan spoke about the lights in her 3-dimensional tree which represented her loved ones constantly watching over her. The moss that covered the base of the tree represented a "soft place to land," she said.
The simplicity of Logan's tree represented being alone.
"For me, alone is one of the best places I can be," she said.
For Kym Ireland, her tree represented imperfection.
"No one is perfect," she said. "At the end of the day, nothing is perfect in your world."
Matthew Heese said when he first learned about the project, he was overwhelmed with excitement.
"I literally had to cover my mouth to stop myself from blowing out every single idea that I felt," he said.
His tree represented standing strong despite the harshness of the world.
Nick LaSala's tree represented renewal.
"It's a new beginning and getting rid of your old habits," he said.
For Kelly Kapusta, the project reminded her of a time in her life when she was scared to lose a loved one, her brother. He became ill during the Swine Flu outbreak and Kapusta said he spent four days in the hospital.
Kapusta's drawing featured a tall tree with a girl on a swing and a shining sun in the corner.
"My family's the beautiful, nurturing sun," she said, explaining that without the sun, the tree would not be able to grow.
"Starting at the bottom, I was bullied and made fun of, but as I grew up, like the tree, I grew strong," she said.