A Douglas County elementary school says paying close attention to the community’s social-emotional health helped students cope during the onset of the pandemic and keep up their academic …
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A Douglas County elementary school says paying close attention to the community’s social-emotional health helped students cope during the onset of the pandemic and keep up their academic performance.
Legacy Point Elementary school in Parker was one of 11 in the Douglas County School District to be named a 2020 i-Ready Distinguished School for Remote Learning. i-Ready is an assessment and instruction program that can help teachers assess a student’s grade-level proficiency.
School staff told directors during the Oct. 20 school board meeting between the start of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year, Legacy Point saw a 4% decline in students who are significantly below grade level using the i-Ready diagnostic.
Legacy Point is also a “Leader in Me” school. The Leader in Me is a social-emotional learning program that teaches leadership and life skills. It strives to engrain eight “habits” into students, such as being proactive, beginning tasks with the end in mind and finding their voice.
“I would 100% say that there was a big connection and part of that was the social-emotional piece that we have to pay attention to,” Principal Kristin Drury said.
Drury said students run school announcements, lead peers through schoolwork or spearhead projects like food rescue programs. They also practice the skills in class.
Educators try to embody the habits themselves and incorporate the program into student’s day-to-day lives, rather than teach it through a curriculum. The emphasis on life skills in turn helps students’ academics, Drury said.
“We think of it as the plate where we put everything else on, so it’s not taught separately,” fourth-grade teacher Pat Peterson said.
Educators teach children to be proactive and take charge of what they need to do, Peterson said.
As the school conducted remote learning in the spring and entered “hybrid” learning at the start of the 2020-21 school year, Drury said educators aimed to help students focus on “what is in your circle of control.”
“Being back full time wasn’t,” she said.
But making hybrid as most effective as possible was. Students could focus on mindfulness or doing their best on the assignments before them.
“There was a lot of conversation one-on-one with families and just as a whole class throughout this whole time,” she said.
Drury called hybrid learning a big adjustment. Teachers “felt like they were juggling a lot,” trying to help students physically in the classroom and learning independently at home. Families were balancing working from home and supporting young children with schooling.
“While kids were at home, they had to prioritize what they had to get done,” Peterson said. “There’s a hundred things that will take your attention in any direction.”
Lori Merritt, a physical education teacher, also helps coordinate The Leader In Me program.
Merritt said the week before the 2019-20 spring break, teachers worried a shutdown was coming. They got together and decided what students would need to bring home and once in remote learning, tried to establish routine for students.
She gave students assignments on Google Classroom and made a menu of activities for them to choose from. Her main focus was getting children outside in the fresh air. Students submitted videos of them doing the activities, which worked well, Merritt said.
For social and emotional health, the school focuses on creating a safe culture and an environment where students feel safe, she said.
Caroline Frizell, whose 9-year-old son Ethan Kipp is in fourth grade at Legacy, said remote education was tough on the entire school community. She learned more about what teachers do.
“I think overall we were able to be successful in difficult times because of The Leader In Me program,” she said. “The kids have already had the language and the foundation for good habits, whether that’s at school, at home, so we didn’t have to start from zero.”
Frizell offered one of the program’s lessons, to “Put First Things First,” as an example. At home there are video games or siblings that can distract students. Her son had skillsets to manage those challenges, she said, thanks to the program.
Frizell said Ethan feels social distancing is difficult but he understands the reason for it. She and her husband have had conversations with all three of their children about their mindset during the crisis and avoiding an “I survived” mentality.
“We are trying to teach our kids that, yes, this is unprecedented and unusual and weird, but we still need to put our best efforts forth,” she said.
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