The Groovy Projects Visits Aaron School
On Thursday, October 4, the 7th grade students from Aaron Middle School took a walking field trip to Aaron High School on 30th Street. 7th-12th graders participated in an assembly with Nate Lombardi from The Groovy Projects. The Groovy Projects is a character development and anti-bullying organization that works with schools and communities to develop empathy and create awareness in preventing bullying, prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Through music videos, movies, song lyrics, games, photography, drawing, beat-boxing, body percussion, and role-playing, The Groovy Projects’ goal is to encourage students to discover why each and every one of them are special and to celebrate one another’s differences. Nate Lombardi, the presenter and primary content creator for The Groovy Projects, has experience in art, theater, acting, Broadway, music, hip-hop dancing, and even substitute teaching!
The assembly began with Nate using beat-boxing and body percussion to grasp students’ interest and attention. Students echoed Nate as he made sounds and music with his voice and body, and spoke in accents and languages from all around the world. The Middle and High Schoolers watched a series of videos that helped them relate to adolescents close to their age, many trying to change the world while experiencing their own learning challenges, physical disabilities, and personal hardships. The goal was for students to see the “light,” or the positivity in each person, to see them for the good that they are doing, rather than what they might look like, their gender, where they may come from, and so on. Students learned that we all make judgements, we can all be “prejudice” at times, however there is a difference between having a thought about someone and acting on that thought by discriminating, teasing, or bullying.
Several times, Nate requested volunteers to come up and participate in role-playing activities. In one exercise, Nate asked for a student to make fun of him and be as mean as possible. The first student volunteer was too nice, and had a difficult time coming up with any unfriendly content to throw at Nate! The next volunteer was harsher, picking apart Nate’s eyebrows, arm hair, even insulting his “oversized” rear end! At first, Nate joined in on the back and forth banter, making the audience laugh audibly. However, as the student continued his insults, Nate became more and more self-conscious, quiet, and visibly defeated. The role-playing took a turn and was no longer found to be funny by the audience. The purpose was for students to observe how teasing may start off funny if it is playful, friendly, and mutual. Once it becomes one-sided, it looks more like bullying and no longer feels like fun and games.
Another activity that the audience participated in was identifying “superheroes” and “villains.” Nate quickly scanned through a series of pictures of people, asking students to point out who looked like a “superhero” and who looked like a “villain.” Many students were unable to recognize the people on the screen, however volunteers picked out those who were smiling, appearing friendly, as the “superheroes,” and those frowning, dressed in darker clothing, as the “villains.” When the faces were revealed, it turned out the opposite was true. Those frowning included Malala, a true “superhero,” while those grinning, included an American terrorist, a definite “villain.” The lesson learned was “don’t judge a book by its cover,” or don’t make judgements on appearance.
The audience of students, teachers, and staff remained interested, engaged, and enthusiastic for the entirety of The Groovy Projects’ assembly. Nate had them laughing for the majority, but also getting serious and emotionally available to absorb the content being presented. Students walked away considering how they can be their absolute best selves, while also seeing the good and the positivity in others.