Highland News Leader

From a pie on the face to getting slimed, Tolbert cherishes ‘Take the Challenge’ series

Highland News Leader

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The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.

Grantfork Elementary and Alhambra Primary Principal Cindy Tolbert has endured various forms of “punishment” from her students over the years.

Creator of the “Take the Challenge” series five years ago, Tolbert has experienced the following:

  • Getting a pie in the face;
  • Having her hair painted;
  • Getting covered with silly string;
  • Being duct taped to a wall; and
  • Most recently, being slimed by students.

And she couldn’t be happier about it. Each year, Tolbert conducts a five-week “Take the Challenge” unit on screen awareness involving electronic devices. At the conclusion of each unit, she said, students are challenged to go one week with “no screens.”

The winning class, in turn, has the privilege of reaping their reward at Tolbert’s expense.

“Every year I choose something new so it doesn’t get boring and there is always something there to motivate them,” Tolbert said. “Every year our participation is outstanding, but this school year has been the best! We had over 85% of our entire school and their families participate. It’s not only good for the kids, but it is good for the family too. It gives everyone time to reconnect.”

One of the winning classes this spring was Marissa Weiss’ fourth-graders at Grantfork. A first-year teacher at the school, Weiss thoroughly enjoyed her inaugural taste of the program.

“This program is fabulous,” she said. “Students are not only educated about the dangers of too much screen time, but they are challenged to participate in a week without using their devices. Many of my students expressed their surprise at how much they relied on screens in their daily lives.”

The “Take the Challenge” series is part of the “Cruisin’ With Character” program. The five-week unit was developed because of students’ oversaturation of screen time, Tolbert noted, and the accompanying negative effects.

“We heard parents complain about their kids being on screens too much as well. We saw an increase in students whom used screens all the time misbehaving, grades becoming lower and students becoming overweight,” Tolbert said. “More and more research has come out about the dangers of too much screen time for kids so we wanted to be proactive.”

On a related note, during the “Cruisin’ With Character” program at Alhambra, students complete a half marathon over three months, running two days a week at recess.

At Grantfork, students complete a full marathon over the three months. During this three-month period, Tolbert noted, various activities are done to help promote good character and wellness in both buildings, all in the name of less screen time.

“Instead of being on screens, students are encouraged to get up and move,” she said. “We want them to exercise their minds and bodies.”

Tolbert undoubtedly loves the program — specifically interacting with the students each week, getting to teach and seeing the kids learn.

“I also love to see them get excited and motivated to take the challenge for a week. Each year the kids are so competitive because they want to win,” she said. “They want to be the one who ducts tape me to a wall, color my hair, pie in the face, silly string me or slime me. I guess this could be taken as a good or bad thing … haha. Whatever it takes for kids to learn and see the fun things they can do without screens is all worth it to me.”

Moving forward, Tolbert said next spring’s challenge will again focus on how too much screen time negatively effects children, but with different focus areas. The reward for the winners is … TBD, Tolbert said.