The Columbia Borough School District decided to take a proactive approach to possible challenges that may come out of the consolidation of Park and Taylor Elementary Schools in the Columbia Borough School District. In November, Bevan Allen, Compass Mark’s Lead Trainer met with students from the fifth and sixth grades at the Taylor Campus to discuss changes and challenges associated with the recent consolidation of the Columbia Borough School District. The consolidation efforts combined groups of students that were previously schooled in separate buildings according to where in town they lived. Previously K-6 buildings, Park and Taylor Elementary schools are now Park Elementary K-4, and Taylor Campus, 5-6. This does not seem like much of a problem until one recognizes that strongly perceived differences between the two schools, and thus the students, have existed in the community over time. Certainly when I was in High School, West Babylon High School was considered the school from the “right side of the tracks” to North Babylon which I attended. History is full of these repeated perceptions. Dr. Parkinson, Principal of Taylor Campus and Mrs. Norris, Middle School Counselor, wanted a Compass Mark presentation to help in diffusing and neutralizing this situation; to change minds and turn the corner to a new cultural norm. Allen’s presentation was about discussing changes and focusing on the change with the school district. It helped students re-frame their experience to one of “making history” as the first class to come through the newly consolidated Taylor Campus. An excellent video entitled, “Stop Whining, Start Grinding” was shown and this served two purposes: first, it crystallized the issue and second it highlighted the fact that all great things come through hard work and not making excuses. This was not to be outdone by the Columbia fifth and sixth grade cheerleaders that were brought in to greet students and bring some team spirited cheer to the event. Allen challenged students to create the best Taylor Campus for all time and set the tone for all classes to come. Index cards were handed out to students and they all had time after the assembly to write down ideas for a new school motto-an opportunity for unity. Students were also introduced to a project entitled, “Person in My Pocket.” This project, still under construction, requires all students to create an avatar of themselves using a blank template. These avatars are anonymous. Once all avatars are received and laminated, they are handed back to students on a random basis. In other words, students will be required to care for a person that they do not know and who may even look different from themselves. The objective is to keep students thinking about kindness, relationship building, and getting past barriers. The avatars are slowly coming in and we’ll keep you posted!

The last portion of the presentation was when Mrs. Norris introduced a kindness campaign that she developed. Using a large image of Oscar the Grouch hanging in the lobby, the objective of this project is to cover Oscar with kindness. Students complete blue slips describing random acts of kindness and these are used to cover Oscar. Mrs. Norris will be tracking discipline and other measures throughout the year to gauge success.

Students were excited to get back to their classrooms to think about mottos and avatars. This type of assembly is perfect for any school facing the need for a new cultural standard or challenged by the need to establish a warmer school climate. It was created for students in grades 5-7, but could be adapted to fit older or younger students. If looking for more information on presentations like this one or other presentations that Compass Mark can offer your district or organization, please contact Bevan Allen, Lead Trainer, or 717-299-2831.