Healthy Schools BC Stories

Community: Grand Forks
School Name: John A. Hutton Elementary School
School District: SD051
Health Authority: Interior Health Authority
School Level: Elementary
Category: School Connectedness
Inquiry: Yes
CSH Approach: Yes
Receieved HSN Grant: Yes
Date Submitted: 09/07/2015
Haley Barton
Community Organization / Association

The Hawks Philosophy

Our school is one of two elementary schools (260 students K-7) located in a small town. In the past five years, the community has undergone a few growing pains which have hit the schools as well. Sawmills have closed and only recently re-opened, and a lot of families have relocated or have been out of work for some time. As a result, we are working hard to promote the social emotional well-being of all of our learners, including staff.

Our 2014-15 School Growth Plan was centered on creating environments and opportunities in order to support social emotional learning. We aspired to connect students both socially and emotionally to peers and adults in the school; to teach and reward respectful behaviors and relationships; to decrease negative stress and anxiety among students and staff; to honor and celebrate student success; and to strengthen school spirit.

Our school took a multi-pronged approach to supporting our goals, with students at the center of our activities. First, the staff worked very hard to develop an authentic inquiry question that spoke to the needs of our most vulnerable students: "How will teaching and modeling respectful behaviors impact the connectivity and thus the social/emotional well-being of all our learners including staff and students?” The process itself was a rewarding experience in just opening the flood gates of solution orientated thinking rather than problem based complaining!

Second, this year our school also developed the “HAWKS” philosophy. (A hawk is our school mascot). HAWKS stands for:

H – Helpfulness rules

A – Attitude matters

W – We work hard

K – Kindness counts (and we)

S – Stay calm and carry on!

When students are observed modeling HAWKS behavior, they receive a HAWK card for said behavior – we affectionately call it being “HAWKed”. The card is then put into an envelope by grade in the office. Each day the Principal draws a HAWK card from each grade and they are put on a giant 100 card Bingo card in the hallway. Once there is a line those students on the line win a BINGO luncheon with the Principal. During these lunches the students and school principal eat lunch together, chat, play bingo and receive a small reward.

We met our plan to have every student in the building recognized at some level for a respectful, kind, or caring act by the end of the school year.

We committed to the HAWKS program because the Hutton staff wanted to promote respect, connection and social growth through positive reinforcement. We wanted to honor and celebrate students when they modelled HAWK behavior in hopes it would be positively reinforced with other students and staff.

Staff noticed a change in the tone of the building and the energy level within a month of implementing the HAWKS program. By the end of the year we felt our students had more of a sense of pride and connection to the school, and that acts of respect, kindness and caring were becoming part of our everyday actions, not just efforts to be HAWKED!

Originally the plan was for students in Grades 4-7 to take a leadership role in modeling respectful behaviors and relationships – the HAWKS philosophy. At the beginning of the school year, all intermediate students were paired with a primary buddy. Every student brainstormed with classroom teachers what they thought a HAWK should look like, feel like and sound like. Throughout the school year, the big buddies visited their little buddies’ classes to talk about and model respect, kindness, empathy, and positive attitude. Ironically, but not really surprising, it was the little buddies who taught the big buddies more about inclusion, respect, and caring.

We were excited to find a lot of positive energy and support for the HAWKS program. In addition to promoting respectful behaviors and relationships, these activities increased connectedness between intermediate and primary students. We also received extremely positive feedback for parents whose kids were talking about the program at home.

The club enabled us to support our school growth plan as well, which has made the program more sustainable. Hutton will continue with the HAWKS program and the Principal’s 100 Club, & BIG and little buddies. We would also like to add school wide/primary/intermediate assemblies to teach and demonstrate our monthly goals that support the growth plan. We would also like to learn more about Incredible Flexible You and Super Flex as well – two programs that support self-regulation in elementary schools. All of which we hope will support our goal by creating enriching activities that foster more connected and engaged students.