In the summer of 2008, Jenison Public Schools made a commitment to partner with the Flippen Group to bring the Capturing Kids’ Hearts model to our entire school district. This organization teaches processes that help increase student connectedness with both peers and adults in our schools. As a part of the training, teachers are taught how to create and maintain safe, caring, and motivating classroom environments for learning. Every year since, JPS administrators and teachers continue to learn, practice, and implement these processes in their buildings and classrooms.
The impact of the Flippen Group’s leadership and Capturing Kids’ Hearts trainings on Jenison Public Schools has been amazing. It has fundamentally changed the culture of our entire school district. Parents report that one of the primary reasons for choosing our school district to partner with them in educating their children is because of the culture that exists in our schools. It has been so rewarding to watch our leaders, teachers and staff work relentlessly to keep their focus sharp while implementing these tools and processes. We have witnessed a transformational impact and are observing life changing experiences with our students in each building.
I am especially proud that Bauerwood Elementary has received national recognition by earning a Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School award for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. I’m excited to share some of the ways your children are seeing this passion and commitment play out during their school day at Bauerwood, as well as other campuses.
Crystal Morse and her staff at Bauerwood Elementary School proudly accepts the responsibility of educating ALL children to their fullest potential; academically, emotionally, socially, and physically.
A veteran teacher that has been with Jenison most of her 20 years of teaching, Kim Finses, takes great care to welcome each of her Bauerwood kindergarten students at the start of the day. Her students choose which way they’d like to be greeted (hand shake, high five, hug, etc). By respecting their choice and greeting them at their level, she is giving them a sense of belonging, modeling respect and allowing them to be seen – it starts the day off on the right foot for both students and teachers.
“Morning Meeting” time in Tobi Hoeker’s Bauerwood 3rd grade class is another creative start to the day. Pulling them away from their desks and into a circle promotes social-emotional learning in a sort of team/family environment. They are greeting each other, listening to others share, and getting themselves ready to learn – while establishing safety and trust. This time also helps launch the students into the day with a collaborative challenge or mindset.They are also building connection in their class community by utilizing the classroom for lunch time as opposed to the larger (possibly overwhelming) cafeteria arrangement. Having their lunch together in class emulates family dinner and provides opportunities to connect in a less stimulating room. The students work together to keep their room clean, they have more time to play and might even get to enjoy story time while they calmly eat.
Craig Westra has been teaching at Jenison since 1994. He loves to help his 4th grade Bauerwood students focus on positive thinking and gives them a way to visualize it. One year his room was overwhelmed with positive thinking in the form of “Good Thing Rings”. This year the theme is ‘Tree Good Things’, a student will share a good thing by writing it on a leaf and then attach it to the tree. the number of leaves quickly multiply and when a down day comes along, they are encouraged to visit the tree for a boost of encouragement.
Keegan Goalen and his 1st grade Bauerwood students collaborated on a classroom social contract at the beginning of the year. The social contract process is open and welcomes all ideas and opinions. The final version contains classroom principles that all the students have agreed upon. The social contract follows the students whether they are in Mr. Goalen’s classroom or perhaps down the hall at their art or music special. Posted prominently in the classroom, the students can refer to the agreement at any time, holding themselves and each other accountable.
Bauerwood Elementary’s sensory path has been designed to give students a creative and playful way to combat brain drain, relieve stress or burn off energy. When a teacher is connected to a student and their needs, this can be used as a tool to improve focus and prevent potential disruptive behaviors from occurring within the classroom environment.
In addition to changing our culture, the training that we received assisted us in continuing to maintain a school district of excellence.
I am extremely proud of the efforts that those who make up Bauerwood Elementary have invested in making their school a safe, caring, and loving community for all learners. In the words of Tanya Peterson from the Flippen Group, Bauerwood Elementary was identified as a remarkable school, with a great school leader, and outstanding teachers, “we celebrate them as some of the most skilled and effective educators in the country!” and I couldn’t agree more!
*The criteria for the National Showcase School Award was based on the following: 1) nomination gathered from observation, 2) level of implementation of Capturing Kids’ Hearts processes by all staff as measured by online surveys, and 3) data demonstrating that Capturing Kids’ Hearts has made a significant improvement in attendance, discipline, climate/culture, and academics. A team from the Flippen Group visited Bauerwood Elementary to gather additional quantitative and qualitative data and to interview students, teachers, administrators, and parents. An additional survey was conducted to collect feedback regarding the perceived climate and culture of the school campus and its conduciveness to learning. The collective findings resulted in Bauerwood Elementary being identified as one of the very best schools in the entire country in implementing the tools and processes of Capturing Kids’ Hearts.