Dear JICS Families,
As the Vice-Principal, one of the most important roles I play is to support the well-being of the children in the Lab School. This Spring we have new initiatives taking place that we are excited to tell you about now.
Social Worker hired part-time at JICS
As you know, the Lab School aims to support the needs of the whole child. Central to our philosophy to provide a secure environment, is an awareness that mental health and wellness is essential to learning. I’m writing today to let you know that we’ve recently hired a social worker to join our team, Laura Gordin, who will be with us every Monday for the rest of this school year. Laura is a licensed social worker with many years of experience, both in schools as well as in private practice, and comes highly recommended to us. Laura will work with Lab School staff in ensuring the overall mental health and wellness, social-emotional learning, and interpersonal skills of all the children, with a particular focus on the junior grades. She has already been visiting classrooms to begin to connect with the students and become familiar with the school’s culture. Starting on May 6th, Laura will be available to meet with students in small groups or individually to offer support through counselling and coaching as needed. Teachers will consult with Laura about the children in their care, and the junior grade children themselves will be able to ask Laura if they can speak with her about their own concerns. Please let us know if you would like to speak with us about how Laura might be helpful for your child or family.
Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) at JICS
We are delighted to announce that the Lab School staff are collaborating with the Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) program, which operates in partnership with Earth Day Canada. The OPAL program aims to improve the quality of active and creative outdoor play for students by transforming the culture of play at school.
This Spring, you may begin to notice some changes as to how we play outdoors during recess time, and how we connect play to students’ learning across all the grades. These may include:
- more creative and open-ended ways to play outside
- more opportunities for students to take responsibility for their play
- play with up-cycled materials and natural loose parts
- outdoor play in all-weather and all seasons
- more guided learning on how students manage risk in play
Please join us on May 21st at 7pm, following the PA meeting at 6pm, to meet the OPAL experts that we are working with and hear more about the OPAL program. We are eagerly looking forward to increasing the range of materials available for the children in order to enrich their play and support their overall sense of well-being at school. You may have noticed the beginning of this change, with the new blue blocks purchased from Imagination Playground. Look for more loose parts coming soon to our school yard!
School Climate Survey
I also want to share some data we’ve recently collected. For the second year in a row, we have administered an online questionnaire to our students in Grades 3-6, to gather data about how they feel at school. This survey, called “Our School Survey” is designed by the Learning Bar, a company founded by the respected educational scholar Dr. J. Douglas Willms. Many schools within Ontario and across Canada use this same survey as we do, to collect information about their school climate with an aim towards continuously improving it and ensuring that children feel comfortable and happy at school.
For the second year in a row, our students are telling us that have a very positive sense of belonging and positive relationships in the Lab School, with scores higher than both the provincial and national averages. They have also had a chance to offer their suggestions for ways that life at JICS could be improved for them. The staff will be reading their ideas and discussing them together with the children this Spring.
The JICS Behaviour Code in Child Friendly Language
The students here know that we expect everyone to treat each other with kindness and respect at all times. But we know they also need reminders and opportunities to reflect on what this means in practice. Teachers discuss expectations proactively with their students, and as different situations arise, work through what respect looks like, sounds like, and feels like for everyone involved. This Spring, we are inviting students to share their ideas about this in their own words, which we are capturing in different ways, with an aim to write a code of behaviour that makes sense to the children within and across divisions. The JK’s recently shared their thoughts about how students should treat each other:
Let them play with you
Use your words, not hands
Use nice words