The Unconditional Education model believes that it is important to educate and inspire the whole child – mind, heart, and spirit. To support the social-emotional needs of students we have implemented daily Morning meetings, focused on important values and character traits – such as Gratitude, Respect, Communication and Leadership. Each day the teacher presents the lesson plan and students engage around a classroom activity to discuss and reflect on the trait. After the lesson, students work together on a project to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the trait and display their work to share with the entire school. The structure of the morning meetings has been valuable for our students as teachers have noticed gains in achievement, motivation, self-esteem, and teamwork. Creating a consistent curriculum around morning meetings school-wide has also helped build common language among students on campus and supporting them in creating a positive mind-set towards life long-learning and growth.
Another Tier 1 school-wide practice that we have implemented is having a Calming Corner in each classroom – a designated safe space for students to go when they have difficulty focusing and staying on task. Calming corners are a very simple intervention within the classroom where students can practice different coping skills to regain their emotional and physical control. Since the Calming corners are an integrated part of the classroom for all students, it has reduced the amount of time students with high needs spend out of the classroom and promotes a more safe and healthy learning environment. Each calming corner in the classroom includes various sensory materials (sight, smell, touch, sound) that students can choose from and a binder of coping skills with visuals that students can easily access. The implementation of the calming corners universally across classrooms has helped students improve their attention span, emotional regulation, empathy, and cognitive control.
Many research studies have demonstrated that schools must promote “a sense of closeness” between students and the school community to enhance the development of intellectual growth, academic achievement, and emotional and social maturity. Since many students at Shirakawa come from diverse cultural backgrounds we have implemented school-wide lessons and lunch time activities to increase awareness and support students in building a positive social and cultural identity. Some examples include a presentation on Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, Día de los Muertos, and Holidays around the world. Conducting these school-wide lessons has provided students an opportunity for self-exploration and expression, increased sense of belonging and greater attachment to the school community.