Cedar Hills Elementary is located on the shared, unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish First Nations in the northwest of Surrey. We have a passionate population with a rich blend of multicultural learners - over half of our families speak Punjabi at home, although many also speak English, Hindi, Arabic, Tagalog, and a variety of other languages. We enjoy highlighting the differences that make us and our cultures unique while also celebrating the things we have in common that bond us.
At Cedar Hills, we aim to be an inclusive community that fosters healthy self-expression and positive relationships (this is a vision statement that our staff co-created last year, which continues to guide our practice).
As Timber Wolves, we HOWL by being Honourable, Optimistic, Welcoming Leaders.
Contributing to our school community is a major focus at Cedar Hills. We know that contribution and collaboration bring pride and contentment, so students are offered many different ways to contribute their efforts and ideas. Both primary and intermediate students have the chance to participate in extracurricular activities, such as school sports (e.g., soccer, volleyball, basketball, flag football, etc.) and different clubs (e.g., Drama Club, Lego Club, Dance Club, Chess Club, etc.). Students also take on roles within the school that help make it a better place to be (e.g., by planning school events with our Leadership Team, keeping the school grounds free of garbage as a part of our Clean-Up Crew, being a class representative during lunch visits with our Principal to speak about school-improvement ideas, serving as Lunch and Playground Monitors to support the independence of our younger students during unstructured time, etc.) and perform at various school events to entertain/amaze staff, students and other community members (e.g., during our Remembrance Day, Winter, Diwali, Vaisakhi and Eid assemblies, in our Talent Show, etc.).
Cedar Hills is fortunate to host a number of during- and after-school programs that enhance the learning that takes place within our classrooms. These include the following:
With the needs of our students in mind, staff at Cedar Hills believe in the power of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as a cornerstone of instructional practice. When students are able to self-regulate, persevere, be socially aware, and make responsible decisions, they are set up for success in all curricular areas. For this reason, SEL strategies have been incorporated throughout our school to develop SEL skills in our students. We want them to feel welcome, in control and ready to learn (at Cedar Hills and beyond)!
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process that supports adults, youth, and children in developing skills that are necessary for school, work, and life. This includes self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationships skills, and social awareness.
Staff at Cedar Hills build and adapt curriculum based on these foundations, recognizing that they are woven into all aspects of learning. We believe everyone must manage their emotions to learn effectively, feel and show empathy for others in order to learn collaboratively, set and achieve positive academic and personal goals, make choices that benefit the collective good, and establish and maintain positive relationships with all members of our school community. Below, we highlight a few of our students' successes and demonstrations of strength this year in the areas of:
Our learners can recognize and discuss personal items/activities that help them focus their attention and manage their stress in order to complete school tasks in the classroom and while at home.
Resilience is an important aspect of personal emotional development and it is something that we know can be taught. Under the guidance of their teachers, our grade 7s developed "Stress Toolkits" this year to have a physical reminder of the various resources at their disposal that may help them manage their stress/anxiety related to schoolwork and other stressors.
Our learners explore ways to add to our school community with a focus on inclusivity.
As mentioned in the "Our Context" section, contributing to our school and its culture is very important to our students (and staff). Students enjoy interacting across grades and with a variety of different peers, especially when these interactions involve taking part in shared learning.
As a result of the work of our Indigenous Learning committee, we were able to have a workshop presented to our staff by one of our district's Aboriginal Education helping teachers on Cedar Twining. With instruction from their teachers, our intermediate-grade students were able to learn this skill and asked if they could pass on their learning to our primary classes. The picture below shows a group of grade 6 and 7 students teaching some of our grade 2s to make cedar bracelets using cedar twining.
Our learners are developing an understanding of the role of positive self-talk and reframing in order to manage anxiety related to academic tasks.
At Cedar Hills, we recognize that one of the most important decisions we can make is how we interpret, and as a result respond to, a situation. We know it is necessary to coach our students through this process and provide useful strategies for them to draw upon.
An example of this took place in one of our grade 6 classes this year. Students were really struggling with displaying their learning fully during math quizzes and often expressed that they felt they could do much better but were "going blank". After looking at a number of research articles, the teacher understood that these self-reported signs of test anxiety might be helped by simply including calming images beside questions in order to help students refocus their attention. Some students found this really beneficial and began using calming images during other academic tasks to similar effect.
Every day, students at Cedar Hills are presented with opportunities to practice and demonstrate their Social and Emotional Learning skills and capabilities. Adding to the work we began last year, which centred on developing self-regulation and appreciation of different perspectives while taking part in group work, we saw an opportunity to pair this with a numeracy focus, which we felt would be beneficial after identifying the concerns/negative emotions students were expressing related to learning math early in the school year. We decided to expand our cohort from a class of grade 4 and 5 students to two of our grade 4 and 5 classes in order to gain a broader perspective on the development we would be monitoring. This cohort included a diverse range of learners that were representative of our school’s population.
Social and Emotional Learning was involved in this inquiry in a variety of ways:
We focused on the following curricular competency in relation to numeracy, as it complemented our SEL approach:
Students will be able to develop, demonstrate, and apply mathematical understanding through play, inquiry and problem solving.
The evidence from our inquiry displays that the SEL-based approach to numeracy instruction that we employed had a positive impact on learning, both in terms of shifting student attitudes favourably toward math and improving academic results.
Regarding student attitudes, the following data was compiled from each grade's pre- and post-assessments:
Grade 4s - When asked to choose from a list of emotion words (grouped into 6 core emotions for data collection), we saw a lowering of self-reported negative emotions related to math and an increase in positive emotions.
|Emotion Category||Pre-Assessment Occurrences||Post-Assessment Occurrences|
Grade 5s - When asked to draw an image that represented their feelings toward math, we saw a similar trend when students self-reported if what they drew was positive, neutral or negative.
|Image Association||Pre-Assessment (Number of Students)||Post-Assessment (Number of Students)|
Regarding student academic growth, the following data was compiled from each teacher's pre- and post-assessments:
Grade 4s - Before and after taking part in their fractions and decimals unit, during which SEL strategies outlined in the "Our Focus" section were infused, student progress was assessed using the proficiency scale with the following results
|Proficiency Scale||Pre-Assessment (Number of Students)||Post-Assessment (Number of Students)|
Grade 5s - Before and after taking part in their probability unit, during which SEL strategies outlined in the "Our Focus" section were infused, student progress was also assessed using the proficiency scale with the following results
|Proficiency Scale||Pre-Assessment (Number of Students)||Post-Assessment (Number of Students)|
We continued our SEL journey this year believing that we could benefit our students by finding new ways to integrate SEL into regular classroom instruction. Based on the changes in student self-reported attitudes toward math and assessed academic growth, we believe we have had success and that this success was at least in part the result of our SEL approach!
Part of our inquiry involved working with one of our district's numeracy helping teachers, who met with our staff on a number of occasions throughout the year to demonstrate new instructional strategies that aligned with our school plan. We found this work inspiring and it has led us to want to look closer at numeracy on a consistent school-wide basis. Having spent a number of years with Social and Emotional Learning as our focus, we plan to continue to make use of our past learning, but also to move forward with an intensified focus on numeracy - specifically, by finding new ways to help our students develop, demonstrate, and apply mathematical understanding through play, inquiry and problem solving in order to grow outstanding numeracy practices within our school.