Living Our Mission in the Lower School
By Michele Hales (4th Grade Teacher and Team Lead) and Elizabeth Quansah (4th Grade Teacher and Alumna of The Angela Wilkins Program for Graduate Studies in Education)
The Lower School’s values of ERIK (empathy, respect, inclusion, kindness) is a grounding way to concretely talk to students about the ways we should act in a community with one another. We introduce these values throughout the school year through books, videos, and engaging activities that help define what each value means, and what it looks like in action.
Elizabeth described, “One of my favorite books is The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, which touches on kindness and inclusion. At the start of the story, the boy is drawn in gray because everyone is leaving him out. When the other kids start including him, the illustrations add a little more color each time someone does something nice for him. Visually, the story really clicked with my students. They could see the images change but also see the different ways the boy was being affected by the other kids’ actions.”
Michele shared, “Recently, my 4th Grade class has been talking a lot about tone of voice, and being aware of those you are interacting with. We showed videos to the students with the sound muted, asking them to describe people’s body language and facial expressions. In one video, two people were saying the same exact words but their tone and body language portrayed an entirely different meaning. This work all lends itself to another activity we’ve been doing this year: the Caught Ya! Board.”
Elizabeth started the Caught Ya! Board last year in Mrs. Holland’s 4th Grade class as part of a graduate school inquiry project. Her goal was to solve a problem, or find an area where Carroll could grow. “I thought it would be great to focus on activities that reinforced the ERIK values. What do these words actually mean? How can we teach students about these values in an understandable way?”
We opened it to the whole grade this year as a way to both teach ERIK, and to build our community. Each day, a student in each 4th Grade classroom is chosen to “notice” ERIK happening throughout the day. They complete a Caught Ya! card for a fellow student they see displaying empathy, respect, inclusion, or kindness. This could mean picking up a classmate’s jacket at recess, helping a teacher, including a classmate in play—or whatever they recognized as being part of the ERIK values.
At the end of the day, the “noticers” present the Caught Ya! Cards to the students they witnessed showing ERIK. Often the kids receiving kudos don't even realize what they did had such an impact on those around them.
While it’s easy to recognize your best friend, part of this project is to help students to look beyond those they have already befriended. Michele shared, “A few months into the year, there was a boy who was really struggling, and at one point he asked me, ‘How come I never get any Caught Ya! cards?’ Another student overheard, and began to watch this student really carefully throughout the day. At the end of the day, she gave him a card. It wasn’t something I asked her to do, but it was a perfect example of ERIK shining through.”
After the cards are presented to the students, they get added to the Caught Ya! Board in the 4th Grade hall. “The kids love seeing their cards displayed. And it's really nice for the community,” Elizabeth said.
The Caught Ya! Project, our ERIK principles, and our work to help students understand different perspectives are all critical ingredients in making Carroll a safer place. We’re reinforcing values that are essential to who we are as a school community—and our students will take those values into the rest of their lives.
“Getting a Gotcha card feels nice—someone is appreciating me! It feels good when someone sees me for me, and recognizes what I do. When it’s my turn to catch someone showing ERIK, I want to catch everyone in action… not just my friends.”
Julia Reeves-Kroff, 4th Grade Student
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 22-23: Living our mission every day as an inclusive community of learners
- Carroll Connection 2022-23