Students at Kinder Hill School are SOAR-ing this school year thanks to a new approach to teaching positive behaviors and social skills. SOAR is an acronym for Safe, On Task, Always Kind and Respectful. It is part of a positive approach to teaching expectations, adopted by many schools across the country, called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports or PBIS.
At Kinder Hill School, posters adorn classrooms and hallways, as reminders to all about expectations and specifics about behaviors. For example, in order to SOAR in the hallway, Safe means, “stay to the right and walking feet.” Students earn a golden token when students are “caught” doing the right thing. The adult giving the token offers specific praise about the observed positive behavior.
Tokens accumulate in classroom jars. When they are filled, the class celebrates and brings the jar to an all-school container, which is filling up rapidly. The entire school community can measure the progress as the container fills. When it is full, the entire school will celebrate together.
Classes, at each grade level kindergarten through second grade, that demonstrate SOARing behaviors all week in the cafeteria, earn the “Golden Spoon Award” on Fridays. They are acknowledged the following Monday by eating lunch at the “fancy” table, decorated with gold tablecloths, electric candles and pretty centerpieces. A photo of their class is posted on the cafeteria bulletin board and the Golden Spoon hangs in their classroom for the week.
The PBIS/SOAR initiative is made possible by the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments grant from Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The grant provided the opportunity for a school team to look at school climate and explore ways to develop a safe and supportive environment for all students. Research connects a safe, consistent and supportive school climate with improved opportunities for academic success. The school team, comprised of teachers, paraprofessionals, school counselors, specialists and the building principal, entered into an agreement with local providers of PBIS training, UMAss Psychological Services/May Institute.
Several western Massachusetts schools are participating in this ongoing training and support, including Orange, Hadley and Holyoke. School teams received training last summer and receive ongoing support from a post-doctoral student from UMASS Amherst.
The team chose SOAR in an effort to connect Fisher Hill with the Orange community through the airport. Children in Orange grow up hearing planes overhead and watching parachutes sail through the sky. All the posters and banners have colorful pictures of biplanes soaring through blue skies.
Many thanks to Hannaford and Brookside Auto for donating reward items. The PTO also donated a very generous amount of funds to purchase tokens and containers for classrooms and the large container for school wide collection.