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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 7, May/June 2005

Students and RCMP take on grafitti

by Marcia Moroz

"There is an old saying: It takes a village to raise a child. Students, teachers, and the police from the city of Richmond have come together to create a book to teach little ones how they can contribute to making a safe and positive community and the true meaning of social responsibility. We are very proud of our accomplishment and look forward to sharing it with you! The Marlinaires of Matthew McNair Secondary."

That is the dedication in the book called, simply, RED, a children’s book for older students to read to children in Kindergarten to Grade 2. How it came to be reflects the message in the story, and the more carefully you look, the more remarkable the number its layers of meaningful messages.

The journey to create
In February 2004, two RCMP officers, Constable Anette Martin and Constable Jack Harrison, met with the Marlinaires, from Matthew McNair Secondary School. The group promotes a positive school environment by modelling positive behaviour and providing opportunities for others to be socially responsible as well. The officers were looking for a group of students to help write an antigraffiti book for primary school children. The Marlinaires seemed the right group for the challenge. I welcomed yet another socially responsible project for our group. Connecting with an important outside community agency such as the RCMP seemed like a wonderful opportunity for the students. Thus, 10 Marlinaires from Grades 10–12 began meeting every two weeks with the constables to develop a storyline for the book.

Between meetings, the students and I met on our own with Rosa Becerril, a Spanish teacher, who is very familiar with storywriting (she had her Spanish 12 students write stories in the Spanish language for Grade 1 students as a major assignment in her course). Armed with a list of questions about what would be attractive to our targeted age group, our students went off to their former elementary schools to talk to the librarians. They returned with valuable information about characters, colours, and themes.

Rosa brought books her own children love, and we reviewed them. We experimented with hobby-dough figures and photography. But after a very long after-school working meeting, we scrapped the idea as too ambitious and complex.

Not giving up, and feeling the pressure of the coming summer holidays and the inevitable loss of our Grade 12 members, we pushed on. Fortunately, productive ideas began to come together.

The text, the characters, the storyline, and the illustration ideas were all in place. In the fall, three students concentrated on the fine-tuning. By Christmas, the layout was couriered to the publisher. The eager waiting began.

The creation: RED
The story is about a crayon, RED, and the resulting impact his graffiti has on the wall and the community of the toys in the bedroom. The book reveals how the little community grows from anger to insight into RED’s motivation. With the help of wise Clarence the Clock, RED is encouraged to think of ways to restore the community’s faith in him. He decides to clean the wall, talk to a friend when he is feeling sad, and talk to little ones about good places to doodle and do.

In this story, the village comes together to help move RED toward being a happy and useful member of society. Social responsibility and restorative justice are modelled.

The coming together of the students, teachers, and the RCMP reflects the story’s theme. In the future, as older students read the book to the little ones in the elementary schools, the cycle will continue and the village will continue to raise a child.

Marcia Moroz is a counsellor at Matthew McNair Secondary School, Richmond.

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