By Jet Burnham
July 3, 2019
Fifth-grade can be tough, but it can be life-shaping for those who accept the challenge to complete Navy Seal training.
“I wanted to show them by the end of the year that they can do hard things,” said fifth-grade teacher Tracy Floyd, who teaches the program to her students at Athlos Academy, a public charter school in Herriman. “I liked the Seal Team ethos and how they worked.”
The seal traits are taught all year in Floyd’s classroom, which is set up like a military unit, but all fifth-graders are invited to earn their trident pins, just like those that soldiers earn when they complete official Navy Seal training. In tandem with Athlos’ character pillars, the Navy Seal pup training teaches students positive self-talk, goal setting, visualization, and self-control.
“We go through those four things, to help them get more control over their chaotic, little 11-year-old brain,” said Floyd.
A series of challenges over three levels test students academically, mentally and physically. Students form good habits while completing tasks such as maintaining a regular exercise routine and making their beds daily for a set period of time.
“And even if you’re on the last day, and you forget, then you have to start over,” said Emily Kirkland.
Josh Cummings said he would keep time while his two daughters held their planks during their exercise routines, but he would not remind them to do them. His daughter Seri had to start the challenge over a few times because she kept forgetting to do her daily routine of exercising or making her bed.
“I just couldn’t remember to do it every single day,” she said. “And then my mom told me to make a schedule for everything because I’m really good at following schedules.”
While students were primarily responsible for their own progress, parents did get involved when their children were required to clean the toilets in their home for two weeks. Floyd said parents decided how many and how often they would be cleaned. Students also received parental direction for the weeks they were in charge of laundry.
One of the most challenging requirements was to turn in every assignment for the entire year.
“Even if you miss one, you’re washed out,” said Floyd.
Others said the hardest challenge was memorizing the introduction to the Declaration of Independence.
“That one was the hardest challenge for me because it took me forever,” said Emily. “It took me, like, 10 days to get it right. But I finally got that.”
She said passing off the introduction was a turning point for her. “I got it and I felt like I could actually do the rest of the challenges—and I did,” she said. “It was pretty hard but fun.”
Emily said she got a lot of support from friends, who volunteered to run laps with her even when they’d already completed that requirement. The camaraderie among the participating students encouraged many to keep going as tasks became more demanding.
Brady Dehlin admitted he was tempted to give up a few times. He found inspiration from the examples of military heroes who applied positive thinking when faced with impossible situations and determined to keep trying.
“This helps you learn not everything in your future is going to be easy,” said Brady. “You have to work to get things; you can’t just do nothing.”
Dezarae Skinner said her daughter, Mersedes Frances, used to become frustrated and self-critical. However, since she completed the trident challenge, Mersedes pushes through hard things and believes no challenge is too big for her to overcome.
The 22 students who completed the challenge received a Navy Seal trident pin. Emily said she will display her trident pin in her room as a reminder of what she accomplished and what she can accomplish in the future.
Duncan Parsons said earning his trident pin will affect the rest of his life.
“If I’m doing something very hard, I can just look at this pin and think, ‘If I can do this, I could do a lot more hard things,’” he said.