Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Located in the Central area of Surrey, adjacent to Brookside Park, the Brookside Community is a predominantly middle class neighbourhood. Initially, the community was comprised entirely of single family homes, but the demographics began changing in the late 90’s, when the school boundaries were altered. Now, more and more homes have basement suites with multiple families residing in a single family home.
We have a wonderfully diverse population here at Brookside–there are over 20 languages spoken in the homes of our students other than English. About one third (33%) of our learners are designated as English Language Learners. With the addition of the district program Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning (SAIL) in 2015, Brookside enrols 417 students. We have 41 students with a special education designation (approximately 10% of the school population). We have 17 Aboriginal students.
SAIL is in its 4th year at Brookside. The program started small with 2 multi-age classes K to 3 and 4 to 7. SAIL is a blended learning program with an emphasis on Inquiry based learning and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art-design, Mathematics). Students come from all over the lower mainland to attend the program. This year we enrol 72 students (4 divisions) in our SAIL program. There is great interest in the program and we currently have a waiting list of over 80 families.
Brookside has a staff of 47 professionals and para-professionals who work to support the development of the whole child. The students benefit from the strong assessment for learning, and differentiated instruction practices utilized by teachers. The majority of Brookside staff continue to use Freshgrade as a tool to document and communicate student learning. A few classes are piloting the MyEdBC reporting tool this year.
The school benefits from a very involved, supportive parent advisory council. They work diligently planning many school events throughout the year to build strong community connections. Santa’s breakfast, Scholastic Book Fair, Movie Nights and monthly hot lunches are just a few of the events our PAC host and volunteer their time for.
The school also benefits from a very active Student Leadership team. The Student Leadership team has many roles and responsibilities and therefore is broken up into many smaller teams under the leadership umbrella: event planners, lunch monitors, “Brain Fit” leaders, recess equipment monitors, door monitors, assembly MCs, tech support, and the Walk to School Wednesday monitors. All of these smaller sub-groups make up the greater Student Leadership team and work with the direct support of staff at our school. Student Leadership is something the students at Brookside value and they are eager to become Student Leaders. There are students from grades 4-7 in various roles on the Student Leadership team.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
We know our students are eager to be involved in school programs. As mentioned we have a lot of student interest in student leadership, athletics, etc. Students show up for information meetings about different ways to get involved and they want to be a part of things at Brookside.
At Brookside, we gather evidence and information about our students in many ways:
-School-wide use of Fountas and Pinnell Reading assessment and intervention
-RAD Reading Assessment (Pre and Post)
-Freshgrade Digital Portfolios
-Student Self assessment and reflection
-Culture and Climate Survey given to focus groups of students (grade 1-7, as well as parents/teachers)
-MDI results (grade 4)
-FSA results (grade 4 and 7)
Communication gathered at PAC meetings
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
To what extent (and in what ways) does the participation in a school-wide, year-long SEL program, Brain Fit Super Powers (a self-regulation program that is arranged by monthly themes based on neuro-science research), improve our students’ ability to be prepared to learn and demonstrate ready to learn behaviours and mindsets on a daily basis?
We have decided to focus on Social-Emotional learning, and this is supported by our parent community as well. They are pleased with the work we are doing to help students develop stronger self-regulation skills and how that will impact the process “whereby students activate and sustain cognitions, behaviours, and affects, which are systematically oriented toward attainment of their goals” (Schunk and Zimmerman, 1994, p. 309). When given the opportunity to give feedback about what parents feel we are doing well, one parent supported what was happening in our school by stating, “Mindful breathing brings safety as children learn to regulate their bodies and emotions”. They were supportive of the focus on social-emotional learning and welcomed even more time spent on SEL.
We know that when students understand more about their brains and metacognition there is a positive effect on their learning. Metacognitive practices are also supported by staff in the way that they teach the core competencies as students are learning to reflect on their own thinking, learning, and strengths as they unpack the core competencies throughout the school year.
4. What professional learning do we need?
In August, we had a whole professional development day devoted to this topic. Natalie Hunniford spent the day going over the benefits of the Super Brain Fit Powers program, including some of the research behind it. And she went through the logistics of implementing the program as a school-wide initiative. Since then, each teacher was given the entire program and we have spent considerable time at each monthly assembly celebrating the previous month’s accomplishments and then teaching the next brain power theme to the whole school.
5. What is our plan?
Our entire staff is committed to teaching the brain powers each month. As stated, we introduce each new brain power at our monthly assemblies and then teachers continue the learning in their classrooms (the program lays out the lessons, supporting books/videos, and extensions on a week by week basis). This scaffolding will help students internalize the information, as we know from Vygotsky’s work.
Our monthly assemblies take place on the last Tuesday of each month, which is perfect timing to celebrate the previous month and get inspired to start the next month off! Our student leadership team is also committed to making this learning meaningful and accessible for all and so they work hard to provide us with videos, skits, explanations, etc. We have also begun many of our assemblies with mindful breathing, as a whole school, to reinforce the importance of mindful breathing regularly.
Our Monthly Themes:
In addition to learning the basics of The Zones of Regulation (to provide us all with common language and to teach students about self regulation), we will use the common areas in the school as an additional space for students to practice the self-regulation strategies that they are learning. We would like to move from just having access to “tools” (wiggle seats, head phones, worry beads, fidgets) to having students develop and use strategies independently and with purpose in our classrooms.
As a school we focused on gratefulness with our students in October. This was also supplemented by our professional development day in late September where we discussed the benefits of practicing gratitude as adults as well.
Our students really embraced the theme of generosity in December and did an amazing job collecting donations and food for the Surrey Food Bank. They raised $1390.84 and 1680 pounds of food. A total that was so impressive they got a certificate and face to face visit from the Manager of Development of the Food Bank.
February–Kindness and assertiveness
In addition to being taught at the classroom level, we have a school wide initiative to promote random acts of kindness. Students are recognized for extraordinary acts of kindness. Not just how we expect them to behave but above and beyond our expectations. Teachers model what this looks like and students that perform these extraordinary acts of kindness are give a “Choose Kind” ticket. Their names are read over the announcements and their “Choose Kind” ticket is displayed on our fill our walls with kindness bulletin board at the front of the school.
Kindness walls are also being used in individual classrooms and have been a source of pride for Brookside students.
Many families are also supporting the monthly themes through their homework and family conversations as the program has monthly assignments and discussion prompts for students to do at home each month, so that families can be on board as well.
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
Criteria for success is improved self-regulation and social-emotional skills, as well as improved student learning due to the improved self-regulation/social-emotional skills.
- Anecdotal Observations by teachers:
o Look for evidence of students applying the Brain Fit strategies during other learning times
o Look for evidence of students using the vocabulary learned from the Brain Fit strategies
o Look for evidence of student leadership modeling Brain Fit strategies and encouraging them in others even when they are “off the clock”
o Students teaching new students the tools that they have learned and showing empathy toward their new classmates.
- Student Feedback:
o Student self-assessments on core competencies and how they are doing in regards to the monthly themes.
o Entries on Fresh grade ePortfolios and student work
o During class meetings
o In their journals
o Student reflection survey (using forms so it can be anonymous) in June
- Focused Conversations
o Notes collected during Grade group focus groups (Culture and Climate Survey)
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
At this point we are half way through the school year and are already seeing much success with this program! Students, staff, and parents are enjoying it and we are committed to seeing it through and documenting the benefits. We will review in June 2019 when we give our students a reflection survey using forms, and then plan adjustments for the next school year.