Got Character? Not just a catch phrase, but a way of life in the River Falls School District.
Leading with Character the Wildcat Way, is how we look at building a positive school climate. The idea started after our districts strategic planning (Healthy Lives, Strategy IV) which reads: All staff and Students will have the skills and support to live physically, socially and emotionally healthy lives. The action plan reads: Students will be exposed to positive character attributes throughout their education through integrated K-12 Character Education Curriculum with the stipulation to consider age appropriate student involvement.
Character Education has grown and flourished the last three years in our schools, it has flourished with our kids and with our staff. It has helped build positive students and a positive environment.
The model we are using is from The Character Education Partnership (CEP) which believes that character education’s primary focus is on developing the core ethical values needed to be a good human being. Character Education also seeks to develop complementary performance character qualities that enable students to perform at their highest potential in the classroom, the workplace or any other area of endeavor.
It is not just a school initiative either. We have taken steps to make it reach beyond the school walls. A Character Education Community Committee comprised of the YMCA, Parks and Rec, River Falls Area Hospital, American Legion, City Council, Clergy, Parents, Coaches, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, River Falls Youth Sports Organizations, School Counselors, Administrators and Teachers. They have all come together to look at implementing the program in the community. Nine character traits were picked:
- Positive Attitude
A big partner in helping to bring training to the school has been through a grant of $12,000 from the River Falls Area Hospital and some AODA grant monies. They see this as a way of building emotional and social health in our students and the community.
There has been a multitude of activities. The elementary schools have monthly character kickoff activities, the Great Greenwood Giveaway has been started, Rocky Branch has Stepping Stones to Character, Westside does “Rise Up with Character.” Meyer Middle School has done an Everest Project and a couple 30 Day Challenges, both help students focus on their positive achievements and goals. The high school has amped up the Wildcat Pep Club and have done some great things with the CATS Program and their Flip Out Activities. All are unique programs to help promote and build character. Each school has earned state and national Promising Practice Awards from the Character Education Partnership for these activities. A new movement has been looking at how to infuse character education into coaching and our athletes. This is starting in the schools, with a goal of taking it into community youth sports programs.
The district is holding its second annual Character Education Conference August 8-9 at the River Falls High School. It is geared toward teachers, parents, administrators, community members, clergy and civic group leaders. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how character education can build positive youth, parents and communities. Character Education has helped build a positive environment and does carry over through in the actions of our youth. A real positive for all!