USD 382 Pratt is piloting a new program focused on children's emotional needs in the morning with special meetings where they are encouraged to identify their emotional state and share with each other.
School is not just about the ABCs for more than 435 Pratt USD 382 elementary students this year, there is now also a social-emotional emphasis to give students a head-start in life, according to Southwest Principal Jason May.
“If students get their emotions under control, academic success will follow,” May said.
To this end, students at Southwest Elementary School are taking “Morning Meetings” this school year as part of a pilot phase of a “Trauma Informed” curriculum, which will be fully implemented for the 2019-20 school year.
“We’ve been trying it out and really loving what we’re doing,” said second-grade teacher Jessica Hanvey, who is the Building Leader for the pilot program, part of the district’s re-accreditation process.
Wednesday morning 18 students in Michelle Haskin’s third-grade class gathered in a circle, as they do each morning. There was opportunity for any who wished to express feelings and share news, followed by spot of game-play with each student taking turns tossing a pair of yellow oversized foam dice and calling out the answer to the showing numbers when multiplied.
Teachers in each of the other 21 classrooms hold similar meetings designed to set a tone for respect and engaged learning in a climate of trust, Hanvey said. She said an added benefit of morning meetings is motivating students by addressing the human need to feel a sense of significance and belonging and to have fun.
“The overall goal is to reduce the number of students referred for behavior and we also want to reduce the type of infraction, from major to minor,” Hanvey said.
The new Trauma Informed curriculum also incorporates “Zones of Regulation” into daily school life, Hanvey said, explaining that colors are used to identify four aspects of human emotion.
“We have the Blue Zone, the Green Zone, the Yellow Zone and the Red Zone,” Hanvey said.
Classroom posters identify emotions attached to each of the zones with the ‘Green Zone” being the target zone for students as it signifies feelings that include being happy, calm, focused and ready-to-learn.
“Green is where we want our Super Frogs to be,” May said.
Blue Zone represents feelings of being sad, sick, tired, bored and sluggish. Yellow Zone represents feeling frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited or losing control. Red Zone signifies being mad or angry, feeling mean or terrified, of acting out of control, including yelling or hitting.
Students can relate their feelings to their teacher by stating their color so they can be helped to return to “green,” Hanvey said.
For her second-graders, Hanvey has assigned each a popsicle-stick marker with their name and she has four colored coffee cans – blue, green, yellow, red – placed near her desk where students can deposit their marker to indicate their feelings.
“They can move their marker from one color to another throughout the day as their emotions shift,” Hanvey said. “We want students to learn to monitor their emotions and be self-regulating.”
Southwest academic staff have received extensive training in both “Morning Meetings” and “Zones of Regulation” by recognized authorities in these respective fields.
“Overall our goal is helping students work to their potential,” May said. “We’ve always had tools to reach kids academically, now we are finally turning focus to the social-emotional aspect that has been lacking.”
USD 382 Superintendent Suzan Patton expressed pride in the Southwest staff.
“They are looking at the whole child and teaching our students how to be more aware of their responses. They’re also teaching important life skills to prepare our students for a successful life as they grow into adulthood,” Patton said.