Novel helps Georgia students understand mental health

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) - "The Science of Breakable Things," written by Tae Keller, is a book about a child's unforgettable journey discovering the science of hope, love and miracles while helping her mother who suffers from depression, according to the novel's summary.

With such an honorable and hopeful premise at its heart, Hahira Middle School chose the book as the novel for students to read this year.

It was perfect because it relates to what HMS's teachers, faculty and staff all wanted to focus on in regards to its students and the pandemic: mental health, school officials said.

Leslie Crawford, an instructional coach, said this year will be about student's social and emotional growth just as much as it's about their academic growth.

"We chose this book because it does incorporate a lot of science topics, which are very engaging, but it also has a really big theme throughout it in relying on others through difficult times," Crawford said.

As the summary reads, Natalie, the main character, is approached by her science teacher to enter an egg drop competition with a $500 prize - a solution to her problems.

With the money, Natalie hopes to fly her mother, a botanist, to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids to inspire her to fall in love with life again - to be herself again.

Activities usually stem from the yearly novel. Since this year's book is a blend of literature and science, students and teachers had a unique experience in the activities they create.

The big ticket event for all grades - sixth, seventh and eighth - was an egg drop. On Friday, Aug. 13, sixth and seventh graders got the chance to test their egg protection apparatuses.

Students' projects ranged from bubble wrap-lined cardboard boxes connected to parachutes to containers padded with cotton balls for the drop.

The eighth graders still hadn't performed their egg drop last Friday but were expected to before the day's end as they finished their projects. They took a different route in creating their eggs' protective apparatuses.

Eighth-grader Anna Elliot looked back on the process, remembering the brainstorming they had to do and the sketches that needed to be drawn before the apparatus could be built.

Elliot said she and her team are putting their egg in a cup surrounded by cotton balls. The bottom of the cup will have balloons for cushioning with an attached grocery-bag parachute to its top.

Fellow eighth-grader D.J. Jones said he and his team's protective apparatus has a straw base and walls to surround their egg as it's surrounded by bubble wrap. Balloons are attached to the side as air bags to make sure the egg doesn't take a lot of impact.

While it's been a joy to participate, students said, there's also a lesson learned about mental health. Jones said he wasn't thinking about that at first but sees the application now.

He said he knows a man who has schizophrenia and his family has to watch him and care for him. If they don't, he might have a breakdown.

"They have to give him his prescription and make sure they're watching him at all times, (and) just like the egg, we have to make sure it's protected with all the materials that we have, so that the egg doesn't break," Jones said.

Crawford said people can also think about the activity as a way of teaching reliance on others when necessary.

"In one sixth-grade class, one group didn't have enough materials, so they relied upon another group to build their apparatus," she said.