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Amplifying Student Involvement in “Our Community, Our Plan” Earns Fifth Promising Practice Award

Community as a puzzleFor the fifth year in a row, Smallwood Drive Elementary School earned a Promising Practice award from Character.org for its “Our Community, Our Plan” character initiative. Smallwood Drive was one of seven schools in New York State and 199 nationally and internationally to achieve the recognition from the national organization that fosters character development in children and teens. 

Smallwood Drive’s “Our Community, Our Plan” emphasizes the importance of collaborative decision-making and community engagement in shaping the school’s character education endeavors. It embodies Smallwood’s dedication to actively solicit input and ideas from every member of its school community in its relentless pursuit of excellence.

Each student heard the story “What Do You Do With an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada and was encouraged to suggest ideas that will make their school a better place. By doing this, administrators and staff made a commitment to foster a culture of inclusivity, ensuring every student feels seen, heard, and valued within the school community in the building.

“The “Our Community, Our Plan” program has been the perfect way to empower students to take ownership of their school by recognizing a need and developing ideas. In this way, students can teach and reinforce empathy, compassion and kindness for one another,” said Smallwood Drive Principal Rich Crozier. “Our main goal with this initiative is to deepen the sense of community and intrinsic motivation among stakeholders to work hard to make the Smallwood community the best it can be.”

Actions taken this school year included:

  • The idea from a fourth-grader to hold a building-wide celebration on the first day of school, Sept. 5, 2023.
  • The fourth-grade class demonstrated the character trait of empathy with their idea to support a classmate who had undergone cancer treatment. They planned and implemented a fundraiser during Breast Cancer awareness month.
  • Two second-grade students demonstrated practice being a friend PAWS behavior with their idea to hold a Jonah Heim Jersey Day to celebrate an Amherst High School alumni who was a part of the World Series Texas Rangers team.The students were interviewed regarding their idea on the morning announcements and their pride, and the pride of the entire school was evident.
  • school wide assemblyThe work fifth-graders do on the Community Garden to care for the plants and their efforts to document their work so the fifth-graders that will come after them can see the historical progress of the garden.
  • Providing literature choices in the library that all students can relate to and enjoy.
  • Fostering a sense of community and belonging among staff with the school-wide book study, "Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management," initiated in the fall of 2023. This study involves the entire faculty and includes three faculty meetings led by members of the behavior committee, offering support in the transition to our new proactive discipline approach.
  • Emphasizes shared leadership by allowing each grade to elect a "Community Leader" to represent their class. These leaders participate in "Timbits with The Tigers" meetings with Mr. Crozier and the Assistant Principal, where they voice their class's ideas for enhancing Smallwood.
  • Mandatory Morning meetings that occur daily in each of our classrooms have provided a forum for open discourse, allowing students to address community issues and collectively brainstorm solutions. Community problem-solving projects have not only catalyzed positive change in our immediate surroundings but have also instilled a profound sense of civic duty in our students.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by Character.org for the fifth year in a row,” said Mr. Crozier. “But more important than the recognition is the impact that it has had on our entire Smallwood community.”

Previous Promising Practice awards earned by Smallwood Drive were:

  • 2023 - “Lend a Paw”
  • 2022 - “Use Your Voice” 
  • 2021 - “Mantra Monday”
  • 2020 - “Power of a Puppet”