Eating out and calculating the tip. Riding the train alone. Cooking a meal for the family.
Sayville Middle School students are taking on exactly these types of independence initiatives as part of Sayville Public Schools’ “The Let Grow Project.”
“I am so proud of my students for coming out of their comfort zones and trying new things to help them mature, grow and become independent,” said Jodi Maurici, the teacher who introduced the program to Sayville seventh graders during the 2018-19 school year.
Maurici and some of her students were interviewed this fall for an upcoming documentary, according to the school district. They have also been interviewed by the editor of Europe’s Der Spiegal magazine.
Maurici gave her students a list of more than 150 age-appropriate, independence initiatives. Each student was instructed to pick five per marking period, then after completing each one, reflect on their experiences.
The program fosters independence and responsibility, while providing opportunities for the youths to build confidence and practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills — in a time when technology does so many of these types of skills for them.
The initiatives took many of the students out of their comfort zones, forcing them to make genuine efforts to achieve a level of confidence with their choices, Maurici said. This, in turn, fostered independence and lowered their anxiety, stress and depression, she said.
Many of the students who completed the project last year are helping their seventh-grade schoolmates take on the project this year.
“A group of eighth graders has been selected as ‘Grow Graduates’ for their seventh-grade peers,” Maurici said. “They are supporting and encouraging the current seventh graders to select initiatives that they would like to try, and also to assist them in carrying out these challenges.”
The program was recognized as a “Model Program” by the “Let Grow Foundation.” Maurici and her students were invited to take part in the production of a video that would help other school districts model after their work.
Maurici gave each student in the program a tree to plant, which will signify where they were at the start of the program, and how they have grown and will continue to grow throughout their lives, according to the district.