collinsville teacher

Loewe, who teaches language arts at Collinsville Middle School, is helping her students overcome hurt and heartbreak through a new project she calls “The Baggage Activity.” Courtesy photo

Collinsville students in Mrs. Karen Loewe’s class are leaving their emotional baggage at the door.

Loewe, who teaches language arts at Collinsville Middle School, is helping her students overcome hurt and heartbreak through a new project she calls “The Baggage Activity.”

The 22-year educator at the start of the school year gave her seventh- and eighth-graders an opportunity to write down their burdens anonymously on small pieces of paper, wad them up and throw them in a pile across the room.

Her students then took turns picking them up and reading the pages aloud to the class, with some even volunteering to share their own.

Several issues came to the surface, including divorce, drug use, suicide, abandonment, death in the family, disease, losing a pet and more.

“My kids just really opened up and let themselves be vulnerable and actually care about each other,” Loewe said, “just a completely different atmosphere than I’ve ever experienced in my 22 years.”

Loewe said she wanted to bring the exercise to her classroom after seeing it on another teacher’s website and the level of impact it had on those students.

“(It) gave me an idea to kind of help get my kids to be a little bit more kind to each other and hopefully see what other people go through,” she said.

After Loewe’s students shared their hurts and struggles, they crumbled their papers back up and threw them in a plastic bag. She then hung the sack by her door as a reminder for her students to let go of emotional baggage, but to help support and encourage their peers as well.

Loewe posted “The Baggage Activity” on her Facebook page on Aug. 23, and it has since gone viral, garnering nearly 830,000 engagements with 300 comments and 568 shares.

In her post, Loewe said, “It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.”