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Students S.O.A.R. with ‘Respect’ at Carter Lake Elementary

School initiative playing key role in positive behavior among JBLM kids

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For the school-aged children of today, there's Facebook, texting, tweets, iPads in classrooms, and unfortunately, more frequent reports of bullying (and cyber-bullying) taking place. Bullying is not only traumatic but it can be a life-altering experience for those involved. Life is even harder when it's military kids begin targeted.

Within the last few years, all six schools on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been addressing this and other behavioral issues in the form of a program called Positive Behavioral Interventions Supports (PBIS). Carter Lake Elementary has taken it one-step further with a unique initiative called S.O.A.R.

"PBIS isn't as much a program as it is a framework," said Carter Lake Elementary principal Paul Douglas. "We use components of different programs that are aligned with school practices, and these elements form the framework of positive behavioral reinforcements and tools to change behavior, which is what PBIS is all about. SOAR is one part of that."

Within the PBIS framework, the SOAR element focuses on behavior that enables children to be successful at school. SOAR stands for Safe Actions, On Task, Awesome Attitude and Respectful, and the accompanying behavior looks like this: Walk don't run, stay in line with teachers until dismissed, line-up appropriately for the bus, be nice to all and greet others with kindness, and be on time.

"SOAR teaches kindness and being polite and respectful," said Aimee Tyvan, a school counselor, and expert on the program that was implemented months ago. "Because it's steeped in the principle that character counts, it's a significant charter-building strategy. We make it ‘real-life' so kids can internalize it - they wouldn't keep it up if they don't accept it, and that's why SOAR works. In fact, our word of the month is ‘Respect.' We are teaching students what good citizens are and what that behavior looks like."

Evergreen and Carter Lake took the lead in implementing PBIS three years ago. Douglas, the lead person on the initiative at all six JBLM schools, said since its inception the schools have seen a steady decline in negative behavior and it has since stayed consistent.

"PBIS is a data-driven and highly successful strategy used in schools on the East coast," he said. "There is a strong emphasis on expectations and what students are supposed to do and that lays the foundation."

PBIS consists of three tiers that help support children at different levels of need including those experiencing mental health challenges. And with SOAR, students learn self-regulation and rewards such as SOAR coupons are additional incentives that shape positive behaviors.

"Sometimes kids with a deployed parent need a little extra help," said Rayann Silva, a teacher at Carter Lake. "It's a stressful and anxiety-ridden time. We use check in and connect and one-on-one mentoring to help support kids when they need it; there's also clinical social workers available on-site. When they have someone to talk to and know they're cared for, their behavior turns around."

 Douglas agrees. "(PBIS) allows for more instruction time," he said, "instead of time spent changing behavior."

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