While Fox Middle School has always had solid test scores, it has undergone quite a positive transformation in the last nine years. The staff has become character education leaders frequently called upon to share best practices with other educators. Service learning is seen as a tool to help students learn important skills— and learn to appreciate what they have. As a school with only two grades and a high mobility rate (15 percent), Fox works hard to ease the transition for all new students. Both parents and students write letters to their teachers before the year begins, to let them know about their learning needs and interests. In order to meet the dual challenges of having many students whose families are financially stressed and being faced with shrinking school budgets, Fox teachers “go above and beyond,” according to Principal Aaron Wilken. “They do anything to make the kids successful. They make do with what we have. Staff members are willing to take risks and [exercise] responsibility.”
Outreach: During their 2011-12 award year, Fox staff responded to inquiries from other educators, hosted visits, gave presentations, and participated in a CEP video on the NSOC program. “Our experience as an NSOC winner has validated the work that our students and staff have been doing for years. It was great to hear so much positive feedbck from teachers from all over the world that visited our school,” said Wilken.
Lesson Plan: Homeless Shelter Project
This project was completed as part of a cross-curricular unit on poverty and homelessness. Students participated in numerous poverty simulations, fixed-income budget activities, and research on homelessness statistics. They also read fictional and poetic accounts of homelessness. As a result, they came to this project with access to a wealth of prior knowledge on what concerns might be most prevalent.
Promising Practice: Make a Difference Day
The "Make a Difference" project is an intensive, year-long project in which Character Council and Teen Leader students focus on a person or organization of their choice that has made a positive difference in the world.
Promising Practice: Bully and Cyberbully Elementary Prevention Program
This practice was initiated by students after attending the CHARACTERplus cyber-summit two years ago. Character Council students created and performed skits for the sixth graders on internet safety and cyberbullying. Students thought that they could make a bigger impact by working with younger students before they came to the middle school.
Promising Practice: Valentines Project
Parents are asked to write love letters to their middle school children on Valentine's day and mail them to school.