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2011 Mahatma Gandhi - Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award
Winner: Martha Hardisty
Martha Hardisty has been the district health teacher for Ashford School in Ashford for more than twenty-five years. In 1991, she developed WINGS, a program that touches on many aspects of human and civil rights in the context of child development such as supporting self-esteem, promoting respect for individuality, and the importance of standing up to bullying
Because of its success, the WINGS program has expanded to now include students from first through sixth grades as well. Students in first through fifth grades participate in an offshoot called SWINGS (Smaller WINGS) that begins with small skits presented by junior high students that cover such timely topics as bullying and playground safety. The students engage in short discussions after the skits, followed by six team-building exercises designed specifically for each grade level. High school students who have themselves participated in the WINGS program lead the teams as trainers and receive community service credit for this participation.
In 2000, SWINGS was expanded to include SOAR in which students meet during one recess period a month to discuss a specific character trait followed by an activity that reinforces skills necessary for good social health.
Following SWINGS, sixth-grade students move on to WINGS, Jr., that consists of large-group team-building activities and the students' first exposure to a low ropes course. By seventh grade, the students enter WINGS, a more in-depth two-day program that continues into eighth grade and is held at a local facility such as Hole in the Wall Gang Camp or June Norcross Boy Scout Camp. In WINGS, the students learn the value of teamwork through participating in large-group warm-up games, six small-group initiatives on a low ropes course, and a climbing tower for eight graders. In eighth grade, WINGS includes an oversight stay
In response to continuous requests to expand WINGS, Martha developed FLIGHT SCHOOL in 1993 for eighth graders. Meeting during the last period of the school day, students engage in more advanced team- and trust-building activities in a small setting such as a gym or cafeteria. Through their work with FLIGHT SCHOOL, students gain an enhanced view of the world and a better understanding about how to make good life decisions in an increasingly diverse society.
In nominating Martha for this award, her colleagues Janis Belair and Alberico Rossi wrote that "because of her early involvement with heath instruction, every student at our school knows Mrs. Hardisty and views her as an understanding ally in the process of maturing and dealing with adolescence."