Key Focus Areas

School Connectedness in Action

What Is School Connectedness?

School connectedness is about creating a school community where everyone feels safe, seen, heard, supported, significant and cared for (BC School Based Mental Health Coalition, 2013). The focus in school connectedness is on building strong, positive relationships: among students, between students and school staff; between school staff, families and the larger community. The presence of caring relationships in schools — the heart of school connectedness — is increasingly recognized as a vital component of successful schools. The research is strong and consistent; students who feel connected to school do better academically and are healthier.

Is School Connectedness the Same as Positive Mental Health? School connectedness is one of a number of keys concepts that describes the perspectives and practices for promoting of positive mental health among children and youth.

Positive mental health is “the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual wellbeing that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity” (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006).

Perspectives & Practices graphic

School connectedness, like social-emotional learning, mental fitness, and strength-based perspectives, is an approach used to support and promote positive mental health in children and youth. While each of these approaches is slightly different; they have much in common and overlap with one another. They work side-by-side, each strengthening the impact of the others and all contributing to the wellbeing of children and youth. To learn more about these different approaches, see Schools as a Setting for Positive Mental Health: Better Practices and Perspectives. To learn how to take action on positive mental health at your school, see the JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit.

Why Do We Care About School Connectedness?

Research consistently shows that high levels of school connectedness are associated with better learning outcomes and better health outcomes for children and youth.

Levels of connectedness graphic

While the positive impacts of school connectedness are greatest on the students involved, here is a spill-over effect on our communities and society. When school connectedness is increased, graduation rates do too, which means we all benefit.

Societal Benefits of School Connectedness

Societal Benefits graphic

(Hankivsky, 2008)

For a more detailed look at the evidence on school connectedness, see School Connectedness: What Does the Evidence Say.

What Are We Doing?

Many BC schools and districts are working on improving school connectedness. In June 2014 four schools and two school districts were awarded School Connectedness grants in recognition of the work they are doing to support school connectedness.

School Connectedness Grants

The purpose of the school connectedness grants was to allow schools and districts from across BC to learn from and be inspired by the experience of these leaders in school connectedness. In the past year the selected schools and school districts reflected on their school connectedness practice and developed a video to help share their experience with other school communities. See the videos below in the “Success Stories” section.

Hear the School Connectedness grantees discuss how they use the Six Strategies for Fostering School Connectedness in their schools and districts (video, 48 minutes, 2015)

Success Stories

See how the school connectedness grantees and other schools and districts are fostering connectedness.

Cariboo video

Cariboo-Chilcotin SD27

It all began with the Circle of Courage... Read More

Okanagan video

Okanagan Skaha SD67

Seeing students through a different lens... Read More

Centennial video

Centennial Sec SD43

After a period of administrative transition... Read More

Majagaleehl video

Majagaleehl Gali Aks SD82

The Coast Mountains School District’s decision to... Read More

Maple Creek video

Maple Creek SD43

In 2010 the staff at Maple Creek noticed that even... Read More

Montecito video

Montecito Elementary SD41

Seeing students through a different lens. It started with... Read More

Action Across BC Schools and Districts

The school connectedness grantees are not the only schools and districts that are making strides in fostering school connectedness. Get inspired by the many ways that other BC schools are building connectedness – from cross-grade mentoring, to art programs, to classroom design to cooking, to connecting to students’ passions to multi-faceted approaches.

Byrne Creek Secondary, Burnaby SD41

Byrne Creek Secondary School was the 2012 winner of the ASCD Whole Child Award that recognizes schools that move beyond a narrow focus on academic achievement to take action for the whole child.

Byrne Creek credits its success to passionate staff, thoughtful planning, and integrated programming coming together to support students in their vibrant and diverse community. Support from government ministries, the school district, and the larger community create conditions to respond to the needs of each child in a sustainable way.

Learn more about Byrne Creek’s approach at the links below.

Comox Valley SD71

The Comox Valley School District has a long history of working on school connectedness, from District Principal Jeff Stewart’s leadership in forming the BC School Centred Mental Health Coalition in 2010 to a wide range of school level initiatives.

  • I Can Project (video, 22 minutes, 2012). Educators and students in five different schools engage in an inquiry project that has students making a difference in their community and in the world.
  • Navigate (NIDES) E.N.T.E.R. (video, 13 minutes, 2014) Strong connections and a sense of belonging are developed in students with a passion for science and a curiosity of how things work in the eCademy of New Technology, Engineering and Robotics (E.N.T.E.R.).

More School and District Stories

Visit Healthy Schools BC Stories and select School Connectedness as the Category (first filter) to find their stories

Resources and Programs

Effective Strategies for Fostering School Connectedness

The following six strategies had proven effective in increasing the extent to which students feel connected to school. These strategies are not prescriptive; they simply provide the guideposts for schools and districts as they take action on school connectedness.1

1. Adapted from: CDC’s Fostering School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors for Youth; Learning Leadership OECD

Provide professional learning and support for teachers and other school staff to enable them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children and adolescents.

School Connectedness

School Leadership at all levels (principal, teacher, district) establishes structures and decision-making processes that facilitate student, family, and community engagement, academic achievement, and staff empowerment.

Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and communities.

Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life.

Use effective teaching and learning methods & classroom management techniques to foster a positive learning environment.

Learning is social: Provide students with emotional and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school.

Getting Started

  • School Connectedness info-graphic, DASHBC (document, 2014).
  • JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit (interactive eBook with videos and downloadable materials, 2013). The toolkit is meant build knowledge, to facilitate a shift in practice, and to set in motion a process for engaging school and community strengths in fostering the positive growth and development of children and youth..

Taking Action

Social-Emotional Learning

  • Dr. Daniel Siegel
    • The Teenage Brain and how compassion and empathy can be cultivated during the teenage years (video, 14 minutes, 2014).

Caring Relationships

Family and Community Involvement

Teaching and Learning and Classroom Management Practices

Professional Learning

School Leadership

Supporting Research Summaries