Comstock Park — Fifth-grader Elle Brant followed Pine Island Elementary teacher Deb Becker’s instructions to color the face of her drawing green and declared “It’s Frankenstein.”
Classmate Jayla Dominquez added “It’s Frankenstein’s wife,” after Becker told them the next step was to add “purple-colored scrappy hair.”
Meanwhile, Aubrie Foley insisted it was “Squidward’s mom.”
The fifth-graders were participating in the district’s new leadership class, offered at both Pine Island and Stoney Creek elementary schools. It is part of the school’s specials rotation, which also includes art, music, physical education and STEM.
About six years ago through a grant, Pine Island and Stoney Creek incorporated the Leader in Me program designed to encourage student leadership, and foster and boost academic success. It does this by focusing on seven habits of leadership such as being proactive, having a plan, prioritizing and collaborating.
The Leader in Me program was originally incorporated into daily classroom routines, Becker said. But it was paused amid the COVID pandemic and had not been part of the elementary curriculum for the past three years.
“Leadership habits are at the heart of everything we do at Pine Island,” said Principal Brian Morrison. “We wanted to find a way where all students would be exposed to these habits, learn what they mean and show students how to model these habits in their daily lives. Adding a fifth special using the Leader in Me curriculum gave us a way to make this happen.”
Learning to Build Skills
Reinstated this year, the program was expanded to 40 minutes. Becker added activities and incorporated the four Cs in education: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.
A recent monster-drawing lesson showed students what it meant to have a plan when doing a task. Steps were provided, but details were up to them.
“Do you have to color the ears?” asked fifth-grader Dereck Santiago, after Becker instructed the class to draw squiggly ears.
Responded Becker, “You have to make your own plan.”
After thinking about it, Dereck made a decision: “I am not coloring them in.”
At the end of the lesson, Becker revealed the monster she was describing, so students could see how theirs compared.
“Do you think if I had shown this to you before you started drawing, that you could have come up with a better plan on what to draw?” Becker asked the students, many of whom said yes.
After learning the fundamentals, students will build on skills through the remaining habits, completing activities throughout the year to help them practice.
Over the next couple of months, Becker said, she plans to have students fill leadership roles at school. Also at Pine Island, a student from each class has been selected to participate in a pilot student leader group that will help plan some school- and community-wide activities.
Read more from Comstock Park:
• Who hurt Santa, and why?
• Visual learning helps ELL students build skills, boost comprehension