The FWSU Story: Winter Wellness Program Helps Keep Fletcher Students Healthy

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An age-old tradition that heats up in the dead of winter is promoting good health and new skills for students in Fletcher. The school’s Winter Wellness Program, which includes outdoor school-based activities as well as skiing and snowboarding at Smuggler’s Notch, aims to promote an enjoyment and appreciation of outdoor recreation, healthy exercise habits and positive social skills. 

Weather permitting, the program runs for five consecutive Friday afternoons beginning in February, and has been in existence for more than 20 years. Some former Fletcher Elementary students have now returned as part of the 18-parent cadre of mountain chaperones that are making this year’s skiing and boarding component of the program a slope-side success. In addition, all school staff participate in the program by chaperoning at Smuggs or during outdoor activities at school.

But, the familiar faces on the Mountain didn’t end with the parents and staff members that hit the slopes with students. The program has served as inspiration for several adult former Fletcher Elementary students who have gone on to become instructors at Smuggler’s Notch and now facilitate lessons and serve as inspiration for their younger Fletcher counterparts.

According to Aimee Tinker, a parent volunteer who coordinates the skiing and snowboarding component of the program, the benefits of the program go well beyond learning the technicalities of the sports.

“There is also an important social piece where students are in a new setting with their peers, teachers, parents and new adults,” Tinker said, stating that students practice flexibility, adaptability and respect in addition to receiving ski or snowboarding instruction and having fun.

Tinker is convinced of the educational value of the program. “They learn so much,” she said of the students’ experience at the mountain. “This is not a waste of a Friday afternoon. It is an educational field trip with instructors and skills, social and otherwise.”

Drew Tolbert agrees. He is the former sales and promotions coordinator for the mountain and a former snowboard coach who has worked with many Fletcher Elementary School groups. “The students are being athletic and healthy,” Tolbert said. “Beyond that it’s all about the mountain experience. It’s less about being involved in a really traditionally strict class and more about developing an appreciation of the mountain environment and working as a team and build camaraderie as we go through challenges together. Students really learn how to look out for each other. It really becomes a team effort”

One in five children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Obese children are also more prone to stress, sadness and low self-esteem.

“Fletcher’s Winter Wellness Program does a great job of getting kids out and moving,” School Nurse Tara McMahon said. “It is so hard in the winter months to get in the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. Learning to downhill ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, skate and snowshoe helps our students develop a lifelong love of the winter outdoors and to stay physically fit.”

For students that may struggle in a traditional school setting, Tinker says the program provides an opportunity for them to shine outside of the classroom. “They get up on that mountain and they are often a totally different kid,” Tinker said. “They are all smiles and the folks at the mountain always say that Fletcher has the best behaved kids. They really do model what they learn in school.”

Smuggs staff credit much of the students’ positive behavior to the program’s emphasis on choice and leadership opportunities for kids, citing that many instructors get to know students over time and develop positive, trusting relationships that allow students to act as role models for others.

“We’re moving to a way of teaching that gives them ownership,” Tolbert said, stating that it is important for children to have the flexibility to explore their own learning styles during lessons. “There is no shortage of teachable moments, both socially and otherwise, framed around a fun, exciting sport. It is fantastic to see it unfold.”

Smuggler’s Notch offers students in the program substantially reduced ticket, equipment rental and lesson prices. The same items are free for adult chaperones. The resulting five-week reduced cost per student is $180, compared to a traditional cost of $715. Similarly, the savings is $985 per chaperone. Smugglers’ Notch also offers SNAP, the Smuggler’s Notch Adaptive Program, which provides individual lessons and instructors for students with disabilities.

In addition to the physical activity offered by the program, Tinker believes that it strengthens relationships between teachers and students.

“Students are surprised to see their teachers out of the classroom element,” Tinker said. “They get to see them in a non-instructional, non-authoritative setting. They just get to be with them.”

In addition to the ski and snowboard opportunities at the mountain, about half of Fletcher’s students remain at school and participate in outside activities. In addition, for the past two years, the school has offered off-campus snowshoeing. 

“The goal of Winter Wellness is to teach and encourage students to embrace and enjoy their physical environment and the outdoors even during some of the coldest, darkest months of the year” school counselor Lisa Coale said. “Research shows that enjoying time outside has significant health benefits including improving focus, combatting depression, anxiety and stress, eliminating fatigue and even improving short term memory. By providing space and time for our students to enjoy the outdoors, engage in physical activities and connect with their school community we are also simultaneously supporting their social-emotional wellbeing.”

During the past several years Fletcher’s Winter Wellness program has expanded from only allowing participation by students in grade three and beyond, to now including students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“Just because the students are young doesn’t mean they can’t do it,” Tinker said. “The earlier the better when it comes to promoting healthy habits and a love of being outside in our beautiful state.”

“During Winter Wellness students participate in a variety of activities with groups of adults and students they don’t normally get to interact with on a daily basis at school,” Coale said. “This change to their normal routine requires students to practice flexibility, promotes new and different social engagement, and above all else, creates new opportunities for learning as they participate in activities some students have never tried before.”

“Being at the mountain is great,” cross country skier and fourth grader Harrison Frennier said. “It’s a change of pace to be outside and moving around. It’s a good way to be healthy and enjoy nature at the same time.”

“It’s fantastic,” fourth grader Koda Chipman said of his experience skiing during the program. “I want to be outside all the time and especially during school. This is very good for your body and your mind.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: Global School Play Day – February 5, 2020

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What if the whole world went on a playdate one day a year? That’s the idea behind Global School Play Day, an international movement to recognize and celebrate the value and importance of time for unstructured, screen-free play in our children’s lives. 

As explained in the Global School Play Day Press release, “In 2015, a small group of six educators took action and created Global School Play Day because of their concern that adults and technology were encroaching on playtime for children. On February 4, 2015, the first year of Global School Play Day, over 65,000 children participated in the first ever Global School Play Day after only four weeks of social media promotion from those six educators.”  

Fletcher Elementary Students with their Rockets

This year, 554,632 participants from 75 nations participated in this special day, and schools and classrooms within FWSU were among them. The idea was first shared by Marcy Perotte, one of the members of the FWSU Whole School, Child, and Community (WSCC). The team discussed the idea, which supports several of the 10 areas of wellness the FWSU WSCC focuses on, and then brought it to the building principals and fellow teachers. 

From rocket launches to board games, students engaged in play that inspired curiosity, self-direction, fun, problem-solving, movement, kindness, and connecting and communicating. As GEMS Elementary Principal, Steve Emery noted, “Play is an essential part of learning and should be implemented throughout every student’s day. The transferable skills utilized come naturally and allow for individual growth within each performance indicator. What is showcased on Global School Day of Play should be a necessity for all age levels each and every day.”  In our first year of global participation, we did not play all day…but extra time and attention were  dedicated to the spirit of the day. Getting discussion percolating about unstructured, screen-free play time opportunities is one of the goals of participation in this day. In FWSU, the value of play is reaffirmed by such a celebration. Our schools do understand the importance of play and have tried to create flexible learning environments that encourage the intersection of play and learning in much of what we do. Fletcher Elementary principal, Chris Dodge summed it up, “Play really is children’s work. Learning and play go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. Through play, children learn essential social and academic skills that set the stage for a successful school and life experience. Too often, play is misunderstood and undervalued when in fact it’s time very well spent.”

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Fletcher Students Experience “Out of this World” Learning at STARBASE

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Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning just doesn’t get any more exciting than watching a pair of sleek F-35 jets thunder off into the horizon. Or, does it? How about building flatulence molecules (yes, that’s a fart!) to learn about the periodic table of elements or designing actual working rockets that travel more than 200 feet into the air to accelerate one’s knowledge of Newton’s laws of motion? These adventures, and more, are being experienced by Fletcher’s fifth and sixth grade students.

The class has been on the Vermont Air National Guard base in Colchester as part of a five-day program called STARBASE. An affiliate of the U.S. Department of Defense, STARBASE focuses on teaching students about physics, chemistry, technology, engineering, and math, with an emphasis on possible careers in those fields. Students spend 25 hours in the STARBASE facility and the instructors also teach lessons at the school.

“Programs like STARBASE are important because it gives learners opportunities to see how science, technology, engineering, and math can be applied to everyday life,” Fletcher’s fifth and six grade teacher, Lorrene Palermo, said. “Since STARBASE is located at the Air National Guard base it also allows for students to see these important life skills in everyday careers. We had the opportunity to visit the Fire Department on base and made many great connections to student learning that we experienced at STARBASE.”

It was Amelia Earhart herself who once said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” In many ways, this has become the teaching mantra at STARBASE Vermont, where the lessons are hands-on and include everything from exploring jet technology in the hanger and flying planes using flight simulators, to studying gravity through cooperative games and learning about air pressure by experimenting on marshmallows.

But, the program teaches much more than science. Its mission includes fostering collaboration and healthy choices, exposing children to cutting-edge technology and building a sense of community. Each “Starbaser,” as they are called, selects a “call sign” like a pilot. The call sign represents them personally and they are referred to by that name throughout the STARBASE experience.

“STARBASE has been my favorite part of the year. The science is just really fun to do. They teach it to you in creative and fun ways like designing a space shuttle that protects an egg when launched,” fifth grader, Collin Lucci, said. 

“They explain the lessons in a way that is fun and interesting,” sixth grader, Sabrina Nadeau, said. “They go over everything step by step to make it easier and it’s just fun to do things like design space vehicles on the computer and doing coding. It’s a fun place to be.”

STARBASE opened its doors in 1994 and reaches more than 1,300 Vermont students annually. There is no fee for schools to participate. The program even offers schools financial support with transportation. During the program’s physics component, students learn Newton’s Laws of Motion through hands-on experiments that include building and launching model rockets. Other topics include fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, much of which is learned through experiments and observations of military planes that enter and exit the base on which STARBASE is housed. 

“I liked building different shapes on the computer that helped me design my own space shuttle,” fifth grader,, Fletcher Simonds, said. “Math and literacy are still part of STARBASE, but with explosions in a tube and other cool stuff it’s very exciting.”

“It was really cool to get to see planes taking off right outside the window. The whole time we’re there it’s about science and testing out our theories and learning about the work that scientists do,” fifth grader, Maddie Weaver, said. 

Students also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Brigadier General Greg Knight, the Adjutant General for the State of Vermont, who is responsible for the recruiting, administration, equipping, training, maintenance, and readiness of the 3400 Vermont National Guard soldiers. Knight spoke about the importance of school and taking every educational opportunity they were given. 

Building blocks of matter, physical and chemical changes and atmospheric properties are all taught as part of the program’s chemistry strand. Additionally, technology innovations including the latest in mapping, nanotechnology, robotics, and chromatography (a method for separating organic and inorganic compounds to determine their composition) are features.

​Three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD), along with information about the engineering and design processes, comprise the engineering elements of the program, while number relationships, measurement, geometry, and data analysis bring in the math. Among other projects, students used computers to design unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Place-based experiences such as STARBASE spark memorable learning opportunities for our young students,” Fletcher’s Instructional Coach, Denette Locke, said. “From these experiences we are apt to be in the presence of the future chemist or scientist who creates the next great cure or helps to come up with the solution to global warming. Perhaps the community partners on the base inspired a future firefighter, pilot or the next general. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical learning will transfer back to their in class learning and that of future dreams, inspirations and careers.”

Students’ last STARBASE experience is scheduled for early February, when they will launch their homemade rockets at the school.  Read more about STARBASE Vermont here.

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: At Fletcher Elementary, Positive Behavior is Just Groovy!

It resembled something from another era. Teachers suited up in tie-dyed t-shirts and all students and staff donned brightly colored fluorescent sunglasses. On the wall, a gym-length banner on which bubble-letters spelled out: Be Respectful. Be Responsible. Be Safe. Be Caring. 

It was a groovy scene as the Fletcher School community reviewed it’s four behavior expectations last Friday. The whole-school gathering, entitled, “Groovin’ Into the New Year,” kicked off 2020 by bringing everyone together to celebrate community and to serve as a reminder of the school-wide behavior expectations, all part of a tie-dye theme.

Periodically reviewing school-wide behavior expectations is an essential practice within the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (P.B.I.S.) framework. While the proactive teaching, modeling and practicing of expectations happens throughout the year, a “booster” review after school breaks is an important way the Fletcher staff helps everyone get back into the “groove.”

“While the longer school breaks are a fantastic time to unwind, the many changes to children’s routines can make it more challenging for students to settle back into the expectations of school,“ Instructional Coach Denette Locke, a member of the school’s Leadership Team, said. “Our goal is to get out ahead of those challenges by reminding everyone of the expectations. The new calendar year presents a particularly great opportunity to renew our commitment to a positive school community.”

Students were encouraged to think about one of Fletcher’s four behavior expectations to focus on as a new year’s resolution, of sorts, and each student helped fill in the letters of the banner with a tie-dyed coffee filter they made in art class. As students completed the project, Locke serenaded the group with a song about positive behavior written to the tune of the song, Feelin’ Groovy.

“I put my design on the expectation that says to be caring,” third grader Koda Chipman said. “I think it’s important to know when someone is feeling down and do whatever you can to cheer them up. That’s my goal for the new year.”

Fifth grader Maddie Weaver said, “I chose the expectation that says to be respectful because that helps everyone learn better and makes people feel welcome here.”

“The more our students think about the expectations in various contexts, the more meaning they will be able to make of them,”  Locke said. “That’s precisely why frequently reviewing the expectations and what they mean across settings is important.”

“This is a nice way to start school again after vacation,” Fourth grader Cailin Macaulay said. “It sets the tone for a good new year.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: A Fletcher School Year-In-Review – Four Action Plan Targets, Eight Pictures

As the calendar year draws to a close, the day before December break seems a fitting time to look back on the past 12 months through the lens of our FWSU Action Plan. Below are two Fletcher Elementary School pictures representing each of the four sections of the Action Plan. The FWSU Action plan guides our work throughout the year, and emphasizes the following targets:

Target 1 – Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning: FWSU students and staff design and engage in proficiency-based personalized learning that integrates collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creativity.

Part of Fletcher’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) work has included students analyzing individual and class behavior data to identify successes and challenges, and plan specific strategies that reduce rule-breaking behavior. While this work is more often done by adults, FES believes that by involving students in the process that will be more invested in the solutions. Read the FWSU Blog, Fletcher Students Take A Closer Look At Behavior, to learn more. 
Fletcher School graduate Monica King produced a professionally published photography book last spring. In collaboration with YMCA Site Director, Hallie Wolklin, Monica digitally designed the ABC book, which she ultimately took on tour to classrooms throughout FWSU. Read more about this project  in the FWSU Blog, Fletcher Student Publishes Book, Goes on Tour.

Target 2 – Leadership: FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

For the second consecutive year, Fletcher Elementary was named a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)  Exemplar School. Exemplar status represents the highest possible recognition for reducing rule-breaking behavior and simultaneously increasing academic performance. Read more about PBIS and Fletcher’s accomplishment in the FWSU Blog, Fletcher named PBIS Exemplar School.
Fletcher students took the lead when showing families and friends around the school and their classrooms during Open House last fall. Open House features a glimpse into students’ daily routines, academic work and social-emotional learning. 

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments: FWSU Maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Students in fourth through sixth grade visited an archaeological dig site in Fletcher last fall. They learned about the process of conducting a dig and assisted with collecting and sifting soil Read more about this adventure in the FWSU Blog, Fletcher Students Dig Into Learning.
Thanks to several community volunteers and generous businesses, FES unveiled a new Outdoor Classroom. Read more in the FWSU Blog, Raising the Room: Fletcher Elementary’s Outdoor Classroom Takes Shape.

Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.

Fletcher Elementary has partnered with the wellness group RiseVT to set both classroom and school-wide goals for the physical health of the school community. Last spring, F.E.S. Read More about our RiseVT Partnership in the FWSU Blog, Fletcher Students Rise to the Top With Healthy Lifestyles.
Members of the Cambridge Fire Department visited Fletcher for the annual Fire Safety Day. During the month of October, Fletcher students participated in fire safety activities such as designing a fire escape plan, when in turn made them eligible to be entered into a drawing for a smoke detector. During October, FES gave away nearly 50 smoke detectors. Read more about this project in the FWSU Blog, Fletcher School and Cambridge Fire Department Partner for Safety.

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: “Paging Doctor Teacher; Paging Doctor Teacher” FWSU Teachers Pursue Doctorates in Education

Last year, four FWSU teachers made a decision that would change their educational lives. Amy Gray and Karen Lehning from GEMS, Jensen Welch from BFA, and Denette Locke from Fletcher Elementary decided to move their learning to new heights; they applied and were accepted into the Southern New Hampshire Doctoral Program in Education. FWSU could not be prouder! 

The University describes the program like this: “The Southern New Hampshire University Doctorate of Education degree is designed to develop Scholar-Practitioners by advancing participants’ knowledge of leadership theory and practice, their understanding of approaches to organizational development, and their ability to effectively implement research methodologies and disseminate associated findings. SNHU’s Ed.D. program is offered as a regional cohort model, with hybrid courses occurring in a condensed weekend format during the Spring and Fall academic terms and a week-long residency each summer.” Those courses began last spring for our 4 teachers, and their journey is well underway.

As outlined in the program description, the program helps prepare “a new generation of transformational leaders to engage and lead positive change in education organizations and education systems.” As with their Master’s Program, SNHU program uses a cohort model for the Doctoral program, which helps to guide the development of the participants as “scholar-practitioners” in three areas: leadership theory and practice, organizational development, and research methodologies.

Our teachers really value the cohort model. The four of them can support each other here in FWSU, along with the other cohort members who meet regionally in Essex. Our teachers are able to apply their learning to their current work. All of them serve in some leadership capacity in their teams, schools, and across FWSU. The program is truly innovative, which makes it particularly attractive and a good fit for FWSU educators. And as anyone in a cohort model will tell you, the bonding with your colleagues unleashes support, creativity, and well, even some fun!

I asked each of the teachers what attracted them to this program at this time in their teaching career, since typically it’s administrators who pursue doctorates. Here is what they had to say:

Amy Gray, Grade 8 Math Teacher at GEMS: “I get asked frequently why I decided to do this. Most people are wondering what I’m going to do with that degree. And, I do have goals, but that’s not what it’s really about. For me, education is all about personal transformation.  Learning is a journey, a journey I love and have always wanted to travel. In fact, that’s why I teach. What other job asks you to be a lifelong learner? As far as the EdD program, I wanted to do something that would push my learning to the next level and really challenge me. And, it certainly is!”

Karen Lehning, Math Content Leader and Interventionist at GEMS: “I chose to pursue a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership through Southern New Hampshire University because I was looking for an opportunity to grow professionally in a challenging and supportive environment. Pursuing this degree has allowed me to think critically about complex educational issues that will impact both current and future students. My hope is that this program will transform my practice as an educator and provide me with new ideas, resources, and perspectives to support the efforts of educators and students in this district.”

Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher and Proficiency-Based Learning Support: “I’m pursuing a doctorate in education because I was looking for an opportunity to pursue ‘something next’ and the SNHU Doctorate Cohort was being formed, so I jumped at the chance. When friends and family ask me how I am able to do all of the work and be away from family for most of a weekend a month, I explain that the topics and theories we are studying are so fascinating and interesting and engaging, that the extra effort and time are worth it.”   

Denette Locke, Fletcher Elementary Instructional Coach: “Originally I was not sure that the timing of the doctoral journey was right for me because of my crazy, wonderfully busy personal life, caring for a parent, and my own professional responsibilities. Those reasons also sparked why I should be starting the journey, too, kind of weird really! When Jensen and Karen both reached out to me after the Profile Weekend and said ‘you would be perfect for this,’ knowing the value of a cohort model and having colleagues reach out to me sparked me in moving forward. The cohort, the model of the Ed Leadership program, and the fact that I am a ‘scholarly practitioner’ in this journey makes it make sense to me. I love learning…I love the opportunity to make connections to both my professional and personal lives and I love growing, challenging myself and using my brain muscle!”

These four outstanding educators, who also just happen to all be skilled math leaders, have captured the most essential reasons why teachers pursue doctorates, reasons that we need to pay attention to in designing professional learning for all educators: personal and professional transformation of practice, challenging and supportive environments, complex and engaging issues to address, the motivation and inspiration of a cohort model, and valuing teachers as “scholarly practitioners” and researchers. Dr. Wendy Baker, SNHU Executive Director of Advanced Studies and one of their doctoral professors, summed it up this way, “FWSU doctoral students are deepening their work as educators by designing original research into an area they’re passionate about within their school setting. Their tireless pursuit of the scholar-practitioner lens has already changed their outlook on their work with classrooms and colleagues. We can’t wait to see where their studies take them next!”

I couldn’t agree more — these teachers are truly challenging themselves to actualize “a belief in what is possible.”

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Crayola Grant Helps Fletcher Students Get Creative

Fletcher Elementary is one of 20 schools nationwide to receive the 2019 Champion Creatively Alive Children Grant from Crayola and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The grant provides $2500 cash to support the arts and $1000 worth of Crayola art supplies. 

“This grant affirms Fletcher’s dedication to being on the cutting edge of arts integration,” art teacher MC Baker said. “Through art, we teach math, literacy, science, creativity and a variety of other academic and social skills. Art has such potential to span the entire curriculum, to create spectacular connections, and we are incredibly thankful that the funding and materials from Crayola will allow us to expand our commitment to arts integration in the future.”

Baker, along with kindergarten teacher Cathy O’Brien and first and second grade teacher Katheen Pellegrino, authored the grant request, which asks students to think about how they can make the world a better place. Entitled, Personalized Global Projects, the grant asks students to design and participate in art based one or more of four focusing Global Goals that include reducing inequities, good health and well-being, quality education, and peace, justice and strong institutions. As part of the project, each student will create an artist’s statement around one of the Global Goals and consider the impact they can have on solving the problem.

Created by world leaders in 2015, the 17 Global Goals aim to make the world a better place through international collaboration. In addition to the goals that focus Fletcher’s current grant work, the Global Goals include 13 additional efforts such as gender equity, ending hunger and poverty and protecting the environment. 

“The arts play an essential role in supporting students’ exploration of these broad, global ideas,” Baker said. “Through drawing, painting, design and other creative outlets, students can process the significance of world issues in a developmentally appropriate way and think about solutions and how they can help.”

Fletcher has also connected the grant project with its schoolwide behavior approach, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), within which four schoolwide expectations to be respectful, responsible, safe and caring encourage a positive culture on a more local level. Using materials from the grant, students creatively decorated both large and small stones as part of the Kindness Rocks Project. The smaller stones, called palm stones, were exchanged school wide before Thanksgiving break so that each student received a stone to take home while celebrating thankfulness. Students and staff transformed the song, Rock you, to become Rock you, With Kindness, for the exchange (see video). Students wrapped their stones in small gift boxes adorned with ribbons and designs before the exchange. Larger stones will be displayed and placed outside in the spring.

“Doing acts of kindness regularly actually has a scientific impact on the chemistry of the brain,” Fletcher School Counselor Lisa Coale said. “Through the act of intentionally being kind to others the body creates endorphins that activate the areas of the brain that are linked to social connection and trust.”

According to Coale, highlighting kindness, as a theme for the school, sends the important message to students that simple acts of treating each other well has a ripple effect that not only benefits their overall happiness and wellbeing, but contributes to the happiness and wellbeing of the greater community and world. 

“Beyond increased social connection and trust, my hope is that by focusing on kindness we will also see students feeling less stressed,” Coale said. “We know that when children and adults alike feel connected, safe, loved and accepted, their brains are better able to think creatively, process information effectively and regulate their thoughts and emotions more consistently.”

“The Crayola grant allowed us to bring the kindness theme together with art for a common goal by providing the materials needed to design the stones and gift boxes,” Baker said. “This is an incredible partnership between Crayola, our art program and our school’s efforts to create a welcoming, positive environment while also thinking about issues that impact the word globally.”

Students’ projects will be on display at the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) Night in the spring.

“Having new art supplies is very motivating,” sixth grader Colin Wolfe said. “You get to enjoy making really special art and think about how you can help other people around the world at the same time. Those two things kind of go hand-in-hand. It’s like making beautiful art with a bigger purpose than just looking good. It’s about saving the world. I think Fletcher School can do that. I really do.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon