A handful of students and staff from Nixon Elementary School shared with the Board of Education on Monday, March 6th how they have worked to make the school a cohesive and accepting place for all students.
Danielle Lynch, principal at the school shared, “at Nixon School, we believe that learners are empowered to flourish in the 21st century by BEING THE CHANGE.”
Students and staff alike have taken the approach that if they want things to be better that they all have to get involved and make that happen.
Oliver Hargreaves, fourth grader, Early Act President, CCC Member, and Green Team Member said during the presentation that, “I think it is important to be the change because it is very easy to let other people make changes and you just sit back. Things will never improve in our schools and communities if we don’t do anything about it and actually participate. I think it is really great that I can help be the change at Nixon, and that there are so many different ways to get involved.”
Lynch and other students and staff went on to describe a few of the different programs at the school that are helping to make Nixon School and community a better place.
This year Nixon School developed a Green Team to help with the district’s sustainable schools initiative.
Kayla Mackey, third grader and Green Team Student Ambassador, explained the work of the green team and how important it is.
“The work of the green team is important because we need to help our environment and start recycling any bottles and cans we find. Picking up trash is important too because if animals mistake trash for food, they might die.”
As part of Nixon’s Green Team, they have begun to launch their “Re-Thinking Recycling” initiative which is be helped by a $2,000 Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant. This program will be supported in many ways, but one of the most exciting connections is the PTA’s planning of its first-ever Green Fair in October 2017.
Kelly Blessing, first grade teacher shared how at Nixon School they take pride in teaching both academics and character education.
“As a result of the Board’s support, we were able to launch the Nixon Early Act Club for our third and fourth graders.”
Students who participate in this Rotary-based club perform acts of kindness which involve giving to others.
“By participating in these activities, the act of giving becomes real to the students. They learn how other people feel in relation to their own feelings and how it feels to give their time to support an important cause. Through the Early Act Club, we hope to make the process of giving a natural part of their lives because when being generous feels personal and gratifying than children grow up to be kind, charitable, and giving adults.”
Since its inception in October, the school has held various fundraisers for donating money and items for the Giving Tree, the Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser, and candy collection for the soldiers.
A great deal of the cohesive nature and welcoming environment that all receive when going to Nixon is in part thanks to the Nixon Culture and Climate Committee where the staff teach students to “Be the Change” and encourage them to seek appropriate responses and reactions to situations that could otherwise become negative.
Jessica Mooney, school guidance counselor explained that “this mindset inspires students to be the best version of themselves while promoting positive interactions with one another.”
Two years ago, the CCC shared with the Board of Education highlights of things being done at the school to promote a positive school environment for all. Since then, the committee has expanded its work to include the mini-JAM in collaboration with the Roxbury High School mini-THON, movement Mondays, Words of Wisdom Wednesdays, Bucket Filling, and the Peaceful School Bus.
Nixon School along with assistance from Janine Byrnes, the district’s transportation director created the Peaceful School Bus initiative. This program has improved the students’ behavior on the bus. Students are more inclined to help one another, especially when it comes to seatbelts. Drivers are reaping the benefit of a more controlled atmosphere as they tackle daily road challenges. This support from the school community also strengthens the driver’s morale and helps them to perform their jobs more effectively.
Katie Szatkiewsicz, fourth grade teacher at the school went on to say that “when students have a voice and take ownership for, and in their school environment they will have pride and respect for their school, from the teachers to the physical property within the building. It is important for students to feel their school is a place that they can consider and call a home. Their voice is part of the decisions that are made for our school environment.”
Students at the meeting wrapped up with a sneak preview of their mini-JAM which they invited the board to that will take place on Friday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m. at the school.