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Students voice opinions in West Madison power lunches

Counselor Martha Sparks, at left, leads a power lunch with students at West Madison Elementary School.

Martha Sparks, counselor at West Madison Elementary School, wanted a venue for students to express their feelings and opinions. “Power lunches” were the best choice on the menu.

Power lunches bring students together in a less stressful environment. “They interact with each other and don’t feel as challenged as sitting around in a group,” she said.

When an issue arises, Sparks schedules a meeting, students get lunch from the cafeteria and meet in her room. Teachers usually nominate attendees.

Fifth- and sixth-graders participate in the “Make a Difference” team, while fourth-graders attend the “Friendship Lunch Bunch.” A meeting involves “open problem-solving discussion,” she said.

In a Make a Difference meeting, Sparks asked for opinions about their training and learned “what worked, didn’t work and what would make the training better.” Students formulated questions for Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler.

“In listing questions, we discovered some were more appropriate for other Central Office staff,” Sparks said. She suggested appropriate ways to talk to an authority figure.

Elementary students ask about “how things are run … and how rules are decided.” By knowing ways that policies work, students can find solutions.

The Friendship bunch has discussed hurt feelings and good rebound methods.

A child solves problems better by working through situations in a small group first and then applying that knowledge in a larger group, Sparks said.

West Madison student Dani Biddix likes “going to Mrs. Sparks’ room, eating and talking about what has been going on around the school. We’ve met with Dr. Fowler about making a difference.”

“We discuss problems and find solutions,” Lindsay Digges said. “Our power lunches are great. Remember … you can make a difference.”

Elise Roberts likes power lunches “because we get to say what is on our mind. I would recommend doing this at different schools. I wouldn’t change anything about our power lunches.”

“When students are more aware of their behavior and learn to control themselves, everyone comes out a winner,” Sparks said.

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