By Christine Mason
The Center for Educational Improvement (CEI) reached an agreement to implement a ‘mini-pilot’ of its interactive Heart Centered Education program at Upper Providence Elementary (UPE) in Royersford, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The school has an enrollment of about 500 students and is unique in several ways. First, it serves a high percentage of special needs students using an inclusion model. As a hub centrally located in the school district, many of the emotional support students are transported to UPE from other home schools in the area. The school has three emotional support classes supporting 32 students, one autistic support class supporting 5 students and four learning support classrooms from grades K-4.
Secondly, Upper Providence has already taken several steps to reduce student stress and trauma. For the past five years, Upper Providence has implemented elements of professional staff training and applied work with students using a Social Emotional Learning Toolkit. (http://www.seltoolkits.com/index.php/social-emotional-learning-toolkits.html) These lessons on Social Emotional Learning are incorporated into classroom and guidance activities with students on an age appropriate level. The school has intentionally focused on building student resiliency and overall relationship capacity.
UPE holds three full Unity days which are designed by staff on specific topics related to SEL such as gratitude, kindness, and service to others. The school culture is one that is guided by five overarching believes; 1) Physical and emotional safety, 2) Positive comments and encouragement, 3) Honesty, giving and receiving kind feedback, 4) Maintaining focus on what’s important, and 5) Participation to the best of ones ability. The school has had a long-term relationship with Dr. Thom Stetcher and his colleagues who have provided a variety of professional development services, all centered around building student self-confidence, resiliency, and awareness. Over the past six years, UPE has served as a model for sister schools in the district and in the greater community. A full district K-12 initative was launched to foundationally instill resiliency and SEL in all layers of the school community.
The Heart Centered Mini-pilot at Upper Providence will be implemented with primary and special education grade teachers. Mr. Brian Aikens will serve as the project coordinator. The program will be implemented in conjunction with services provided by Jessica Hauseman, school counselor. Mr. Aikens has noted, ‘The ability to take what we know works for children and look at it through a lens of whole-child growth has wonderful potential for our program goals as well as all individuals involved.’
Implementation. The Heart Centered Learning pilot will begin with a process of envisioning the future and a needs assessment in areas targeted by the staff. Then during the following 3 months, CEI will assist with professional development, observations, and monitoring with data recorded and aggregated with the Heart Centered Learning Tool. Dr. Christine Mason, CEI’s Executive Director, will provide technical assistance and support to the school during the three month pilot period. CEI is awarding a stipend of $1200 to UPE for implementation of the project.
Words from the Principal. Dr. Melissa Patschke, the school’s principal, assisted in the development of the Heart Centered Learning Tool. CEI is particularly pleased that we have this ‘early opportunity’ to implement Heart Centered Learning and use our visionary planning process with a school that is already so attuned to the impact of trauma and the need to provide holistic educational programs that support children’s mental and emotional health. ‘When we prioritize relationships and social/emotional wellness, everyone in a school setting benefits. It’s amazing to watch student success escalate as each individual responds to intentional implementation of these foundational skills across a full culture,‘ according to Patschke.
Dr. Patschke serves as an area coordinator for building resiliency in Royersford schools.She is a Nationally Certified Principal Mentor, and a member of NAESP board of directors for Zone 2 (NY, PA, NJ), as well as working on multiple school leadership projects on a district, state and national level. Results of the 2015 Pennsylvania System of State Assessments for 3rd-graders showed a proficiency rate of 79% for Reading/ English Language Arts and 55% for Math. Reading/ELA proficiency for 4th graders was 84%, Math was 69%, and Science was 93%. The district is approximately twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia, with a population of 47,386. The area has seen a population increase of 30% since the 2000 Census. The area is about 20 minutes from a Corporate Industrial Center that houses over 200 businesses including Verizon, AT&T, Xerox, Prudential Insurance, Honeywell, NCR and IBM