Eighth grade students at Lincoln Middle School in Meriden read the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. In the story, the character mentions the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and how it is a place for people to pray and release their worries and troubles. The novel inspired two ILA teachers and their students to create their own Wailing Wall in which students would release their worries into the wall much like the character in the novel.
Miss Masciana and Mrs. Noonan (both eighth grade) came up with the idea to make a team Wailing Wall. The students were given several options in order to create their “rock” that would later come together to build the wall. Students could write a journal entry as a character from the novel, sketch an important scene or symbol, or they could use technology to create a collage or Wordle (internet-based website for digital collaging). Students were also given a free choice option to create something of their own. They completed their projects on paper in the shape of a rock. When they were finished, the rocks were assembled onto a long roll of paper to build the wall.
The student’s work was so inspiring that teachers decided to continue the wall project into the next unit: Martin Luther King, Jr. Students created another “rock” and added it to the wall.
In an attempt to take this project to a world-wide level, Masciana and Noonan had a group of accelerated students research information about four different walls from around the world: The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, The John Lennon Peace Wall in Prague, The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and The Wishing Wall at the House of the Virgin Mary in Turkey. These students summarized their research, added photos, and these projects are also posted on the team wall.
To wrap up the wall, teachers planned a day for a closing reflection.
Together with their students, they reviewed the information about each of the four special walls, had students walk around and examine their team wall, write about their reactions to seeing the wall, and reflect on the novels that inspired it. Then, students were given two slips of paper. On one, students were asked to write down a wish or worry that they had. On the second, to write about one of their heroes or write song lyrics that inspires them in some way. The project was a wonderful experience in which the students got to know one another in a different way and were able to have rich conversations about topics and people that are meaningful to them.
The Wailing Wall is currently up on display in Lincoln’s Times Square and is a semi-finalist for the Meriden Exemplary Achievement Award this year.