Despite being one of the largest of the more than 70 Imagine Schools campuses, Imagine South Lake feels like a “family” school. Each day, students are greeted by the principal (who knows everyone by name), other administrators, teachers, parents, and student safety patrols. Teacher turnover is minimal, and the re-enrollment rate is above 95 percent. When speaking of her schoolmates and teachers, fourth grader India says, “They are my family.” Living the core values has become second nature to staff, students, and parents at Imagine South Lake. Staff members incorporate character within the classroom in ways that best meet the needs of their students and reflect the school’s mission statement. Middle school language-arts teacher Joyce Crawford notes that “being here at Imagine means you have a voice”; all classrooms have meetings where students’ “voice and choice” is heard and appreciated. Teachers care about the students academically, socially, and emotionally. Fourth grader Eliya states that the teachers “don’t want us to fail. They teach us how to learn from our mistakes.”
Outreach: During their 2011-12 award year, Imagine South Lake staff led workshops and other professional development opportunities within Imagine Schools, especially in the area of service learning.
Lesson Plan: Caring Hearts
Students will hear a story about a character who hurts his classmate’s feelings by writing a mean poem in her Valentine’s Day card. Student will then share experiences in which they hurt someone feelings or in which their feelings were hurt. After each experience is shared, students will make a fold in a paper heart. After everyone has shared, students will see how “wrinkled” someone’s heart can become when hurtful things are said.
Promising Practice: Character Caroling
Students in several primary grade classrooms spend many weeks selecting and practicing songs they feel will help their school community gain a sense of caring. For an entire week, these students go from classroom to classroom singing songs of appreciation and encouragement to their peers.
Promising Practice: Dramatic Mentoring
Middle school students read a story which illustrates positive character. They synthesize the character lesson and decide how they can retell it dramatically. This process allows the student to immerse themselves in character by engaging their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Promising Practice: Service Learning without Borders
The lack of geographic borders brings service learning to an entirely new level. Children learn about how others live and how it might be different from their own living situation. For example, to benefit the people in Haiti after the earthquake, the middle school boys’ basketball team kicked off a food drive.