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Trip to ship raises the question of honor

Grade school pupils visit a ship and compare the Coast Guard's honor code with their school district's character code.

By DONNA WINCHESTER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Recognizing similarities between the U.S. Coast Guard's honor code and Pinellas County schools' commitment to character, two elementary school teachers took their students on a field trip Jan. 25 aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Resolute.

Lisa Hronjak and Jennifer Johnson, who teach the combined first- and second-grade class at John M. Sexton Elementary School, 1997 54th Ave. N, arranged the trip with help from Coast Guard Petty Officer William Casey.

The teachers wanted to reinforce the school district's creed of honesty, respect, responsibility and self-motivation by comparing it to the Coast Guard's code of honor, respect and devotion to duty.

"I like to give my kids as many experiences as possible," said Mrs. Hronjak, adding that she thinks some of the best opportunities to learn happen outside the classroom.

She said that when educational experiences can be combined with lessons for living, the experiences are even more valuable.

The 210-foot Resolute is moored at Coast Guard Group St. Petersburg's south moorings, 1300 Beach Drive NE.

After gathering on the ship's deck for a quick introduction to the ship, the children were led by Officer Casey down an escape scuttle to the engine room. They toured the ward room, the electronics shop and the crew's berthing area, as well as the mess hall, where they were treated to juice and cookies.

A high point of the tour was the bridge, where the children took turns sitting in the captain's chair and pretended to "drive" the ship. They jostled for position to blow the ship's whistle, reluctant to move on until they had each had a chance.

Back in the classroom, they talked about what they had seen and drew pictures of what they liked the best about the ship. They also wrote thank-you notes to Officer Casey.

"Saying thank you is part of teaching them responsibility," Mrs. Johnson said. "It fits into our commitment to character code."

They also did a compare-and-contrast exercise to show the differences and similarities between the "Coasties" and themselves.

The children realized that both have duties to perform; they both work hard; they wear uniforms and follow rules; and they both have to show respect and be honest.

Mrs. Hronjak and Mrs. Johnson also directed the children's attention to Officer Casey's parting words to them -- "Stay in school" -- and helped them imagine what the future could hold for them if they continue to practice positive character traits.

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