June 04, 2014 - By Katie Winkler
Review Staff Writer
After seventeen years of Pine Tree's Responsible, Outstanding, Caring, Kids program, Michigan Association of School Boards recognized the club with an Education Excellence Award.
Dan Martin, third grade teacher at Pine Tree, came up with the idea of ROCK Club when he was driving home from the Michigan Reading Association conference in Grand Rapids. After attending a program about helping struggling students, he felt that a program needed to be created to recognize students with good academic status.
"It's a group of third, fourth and fifth grade boys who have exhibited outstanding behaviors in their classrooms. Teachers recommend those students to come together and I teach them how to be role models for other people," Martin said.
Martin focuses on "things that seem like they have gotten lost in our society," such as handshakes, the environment, personal hygiene, being on time, sportsmanship, being active listeners, etc. After the lesson portion of their meetings, students consume a healthy snack and play hockey, dodge ball, soccer, etc. Occasionally, past members from high school and college will come back and share their experiences.
"If they can practice these behaviors when they're comfortable and out with their friends, when they grow up to middle school and all those other types of behaviors come at them, the bad language, the opportunity to try drugs and smoking, they would be strong enough to say 'No, I'm not going to do that and you shouldn't either,'" Martin said. "Those are the kids that change the world."
While the ROCK club is strictly for boys, Responsible, Outstanding, Leading, Ladies was created about a year later and offers the same learning opportunities for girls. Both clubs require good grades and leadership for the student participants. ROCK was awarded the MASB award along with 19 other clubs from the 240 that submitted an application.
"I'm not aware that there is any other program like it. When you think of Boy Scouts, anyone can be a Boy Scout. The accountability piece is very important for us. I'm always checking the boys' grades. They have to be getting A's and B's. I always tell them that if your grade drops at all you better come talk to me before I come and talk to you," Martin said. "They don't want to miss a day of ROCK club."
ROCK clubs' seventh annual reunion was this past Friday. More than 130 past and current members joined to play dodge ball and soccer, and stuffing themselves with pizza before they left.
Current high school junior Alex Lelli expressed that ROCK club "was everyone's goal and I hopped on that bandwagon really fast."
Students, like Lelli, come back to the reunion every year since it gives them a chance to catch up with some old friends and see Martin again.
"It's a great chance for the kids to come back and network with each other. When these kids get to high school, a lot of these kids don't know that they have ever been in ROCK club together. If they go to different middle schools, they don't get a chance to see each other until they go back to high school," Martin said. "It's a great chance for me to see them all grown-up with deep voices."
For students new to the area, like fifth grader Kyle Manganello, ROCK "helps with making friends and being a good person around school."
With the support of all Pine Tree Elementary faculty, Martin is able to run this successful after-school activity for the 52 boys involved.
"I no longer refer to ROCK club as my club. It's almost an entity of its own," Martin said. "We can hold it over students' heads, 'if you're not doing what you're suppose to do then maybe you'll have to miss ROCK club,' and they don't want that."