All aboard the Energy Bus for positive thinking, better grades

School-wide principles boost student confidence, respectful behavior

These Crestwood Elementary third-graders fuel their ‘buses’ with positive energy. From left, front row: Ava Steindler, Gianna Magnacca and Katelyn Kurtz; middle row: Lucy Davey, Annika Meier, Jillian Lewakowski and Avery Huyser; back row: Henry Ochmanek and Colin Toole

Whether she’s walking into class at Crestwood Elementary School or heading down a ski slope, third-grader Annika Meier knows she can count on the Energy Bus to give her a shot of confidence.

“If someone feels like they’re going to have a bad day, they should just think about the Energy Bus, then they don’t think they’re going to have a bad day anymore,” says Annika, a competitive skier.

For classmate Katelyn Kurtz, the Energy Bus helps her visualize executing a challenging dance move when she goes to the studio for a lesson: “I just close my eyes and believe I can do it.”

Five Rules of the Energy Bus

  • Create a positive vision
  • Fuel your ride with positive energy
  • No bullies allowed
  • Love your passengers
  • Enjoy the ride

Source: ‘The Energy Bus for Kids,’ by Jon Gordon

Visualization and self-confidence can help students in their school work too, says Principal Nicole Peterson, who implemented the Energy Bus program at Crestwood this school year. Teachers at the preK-5 school all use the book “The Energy Bus for Kids” by Jon Gordon to help their students stay positive, respect one another and believe they can do better in and out of school.

The book is the pint-sized version of Gordon’s 2012 book “The Energy Bus,” which offers adults 10 rules to fuel their life and work with positive energy. All Crestwood teachers have a copy of that, too.

Peterson said she’s seen a difference in students’ attitudes and, in some cases, their academic performance.

“It has created a nicer atmosphere in the building,” says Peterson, noting more students reply to her when she cheerfully welcomes them to school. “With the little ones I say, ‘You can choose to be a grumpasauras, or you can choose to fuel your bus with positive energy.’”

You’re in Charge

Filling up with positive fuel is one of five core principles of Gordon’s book for kids. The adult version contains others Peterson and her teachers use. A biggie is you are the driver of your own bus – that is, you’re in charge of your actions.

“I really want them to be equipped at an elementary age for the peer-pressure elements that come up as they get older,” she said. “If you’re in charge of your actions, you can’t be a victim.” If a child says, “He made me do it,” she asks, “Who’s in charge of what you say and do?”

Crestwood Elementary Pledge: I promise to care for my school. I'll keep it safe and obey the rules. I'll respect the staff and students too. I'll be responsible with what I say and do. Crestwood Rocks!
Students say the Crestwood Pledge every morning along with the Pledge of Allegiance

She weaves these principles into her morning announcements and posts positive messages around the school and in parent newsletters. Teachers incorporate them into lessons, and visioning activities help students internalize them.

In one, they peered over their shoulders to see as far as they could, closed their eyes to envision seeing farther, and then looked back again to see even farther. Several teachers told Peterson they believe envisioning higher scores helped students make significant gains on a recent test measuring academic growth since their fall test.

Lori Sanders, a veteran Crestwood teacher, said she’s seen impressive bumps in her third-graders’ scores as well as in their confidence. She’s watched them go from “I can’t do this” to “Maybe I can do it, I just can’t do it yet,” and increase their stamina and stick-to-it-iveness.

“It’s amazing how just shifting that mindset has really helped the kids be able to approach every day in a very different way,” Sanders said. “Who would think the power of a picture book could make such an impact on a variety of kids, but it really has.”

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles's full bio.

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