Buckeye's 'Confetti Project' inspires 8th-graders to connect, build social relationships with peers and adults

Posted at 6:29 AM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 06:29:37-04

MEDINA, Ohio — Issac Woofter, a freshman at Buckeye High School In Medina, remembers feeling misplaced, awkward and frustrated in middle school.

“It’s like you’re wearing this shirt all your life that doesn’t fit,” he explained. “My seventh-grade year was coming back right after COVID and so that was something.”

Woofter says aside from the transition into a true teen lifestyle, connecting with his peers and teachers was challenging.

“It was kind of sad because every day just coming in was like going to a job that you don’t like.”

Woofter was not alone.

His then-eighth-grade language arts teacher, Jody Keith, remembers feeling a sense of disconnect. During the pandemic, she explained, she “was feeling a little bit of separation [and] a little bit of need for relationships," though Keith says this is an emotional battle her middle school students have been battling long before coronavirus forced remote learning.

“All ages have their challenges, but seventh and eighth-grade middle school is especially difficult. Peer pressure is playing a huge role and the kids are trying to figure out who they are,” she said. “Kids have lost kind of a sense of how to converse verbally; eye contact, those kinds of social skills.”

The youth social decline in numbers

Last school year, the EdWeek Research Center surveyed more than a thousand students nationwide. The survey found that 44% reported their level of social anxiety had increased since the pandemic. In addition, 43% reported a higher level of loneliness and 37% said they felt less comfortable with physical contact like hugs from others their age.

The Confetti Project

Inspired by the John Gordon book, “One Word,” Keith came up with an idea to inspire her students heading into the 2021-2022 school year.

“I thought, what if we could put inspirational books into the hands of the students and then encourage them to go have conversations with adults around them.”

As Keith explained, students can choose from a variety of books surrounding grief, faith, anxiety, finance, and more — the list goes on.

“They choose the book. They read the book and then they look for staff that have read the book as well and…they have to negotiate a time [to] sit down and have conversations with the adults centered around the book,” Keith said. “We are tying this to the [state] standards. They have to write an adjective summary. They have to give text evidence by pulling big ideas. They have to talk about the conversation they had with their partner, what they took away from it, what they learned from their partner and how it affected them.”

As for the name of the project, Keith says her school principal picked it out.

“There used to be the saying, ‘spread kindness like confetti.’ It’s on bulletin boards and such and she says, 'Well we’re trying to spread inspiration through books, collaboration [and] through the conversations and then growth, so why don’t we call it the "Confetti Project?"'”

Woofter, who completed the project in its inaugural year, described the experience as “like you’re writing down your feelings and releasing them from your body in words rather than on paper.”