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Student wholeness program: A look at Baltimore City Schools' new approach to learning

Posted at 7:57 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 23:26:09-05

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City schools have recently switched their focus of learning to focus on the student as a whole, to support their social and emotional learning.

They partnered with University of Maryland's Positive School Center to train the staff at different schools so they can implement this wholeness program.

At George Washington Elementary School, they implemented virtues last year. They have a new virtue each month so students can learn about that particular virtue. During their virtue roll coll, students can pick their own virtue.

WMAR-2 News got a peak at one of the classes during their virtue roll call.

The class formed a circle and one at a time a student would go into the center of the circle and share their virtue with a song. The student would say their name and their virtue with the class respond between each statement.

"My name is Dominic - yeah! And I got virtues - yeah! And I got peace - yeah! Inside of me!" Then everyone would insert the virtue into the next phrase. "Aww! Peace! Na-na-na peace! Na-na-na peace! Na-na -na virtue roll call!" The next student chose love, then there was courage.

"It gives kids the ability to check in on their feelings, their self-awareness and how they’re feeling and then pull on a virtue to get through an activity or a feeling or emotional they might be struggling with at any given time," said Bridget Wrightson, the Principal at George Washington Elementary School.

As Principal Wrightson showed WMAR-2 News around the school you could tell how passionate she was about this program.

"We can see it working in the ways that our kid shave conversations," said Wrightson. "It's made a huge turn around in our kids ability to adapt and to reflect and make better decision that help them in the long run both emotionally and academically as well because they’re learning resiliency."

She said these programs focus on self-awareness, self-management and responsible decision making.

"She always saying something about the virtues because you should stay steadfast on task and ambitious and respectful," said Zoey Garcia-Diaz, a fourth grade student who looks forward to these activities.

Garcia-Diaz explained how every day after lunch they take a few minutes to focus on breathing exercises and yoga stretches.

"Not everybody can just be like okay lunch is over we have to get back to work," she said. "Some people need to exercise to breathe in and breathe out and just think about how your day is going so right now in the morning so we can transition to do that again in the afternoon."

Another fourth grader, Adaeze Okeke, said these exercises help her calm down after lunch.

"It takes out all the negative feelings so that when I go to my next teacher I'll be ready for what we do next!" she said.

Mr. A.P., Avery Pearsall, walks the students through these breathing exercise. He's the student wholeness specialist and runs the student wholeness room, two things that were just added this school year.

"Our students need outlets in order to talk about their feelings and emotions socio-emotional learning and the whole space for student wholeness gives that options for our students to find their voice and provide insight to the person they wanna become but also helps them build healthy relationships and relate to other classmates and adults in the building," said Pearsall.

He believes this is really beneficial to the students. Principal Wrightson believes it's truly helping her students grow.

"Having these wholeness opportunities allows them to better engage in the work and to be able to transition and really work hard on focus and skill," said Principal Wrightson. "They give them all these extra opportunities to develop self confidence that allows them to be happier and wholer people which allows them to get so much more down academically."

The student wholeness program is part of the "Building a Generation: City Schools' Blueprint for Success."

For more information, click here.