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Hop On Board the Energy Bus

Hop On Board the Energy Bus
Posted on 05/21/2019
A Blue Heron Elementary student listens intently during a class discussion of the book “Because of Winn-Dixie.”School buses and schools naturally go together. So, it makes perfect sense for Blue Heron Elementary to have an “Energy Bus” as the very first thing you see when you enter the building.

“The Energy Bus is a positive system we use month-to-month to have different principles that we try to talk about, strive for,” explained Blue Heron Elementary teacher Vallory Darting.

Transforming negativity, for example.

“Turn something you don’t like, something sad, into a great opportunity,” said student Vincent Nguyen

“People should be happy about it and enjoy it,” added student Ian Matthew.

“Yeah, because if you go down into the mud, it would get you stuck, and that means you're having a hard time with school. Just like a bus, you have to find a way to get out of the mud,” said student Bishop Pruitt.

Blue Heron teacher Katie Nardi believes it’s helped improve behaviors in her students.

“They have to own their behavior, and they're responsible,” she said.

The Energy Bus is symbolic of a school that prides itself on caring for its own. It's a very diverse population of learners who come from many backgrounds and cultures.

“I think all the students do a good job of welcoming each other,” said student Tucker Grote. “The teachers are good at taking in different kids with different learning needs and able to put that on paper and teach all different learning styles.”

"I struggled with writing and coming up with good transitions and how to start and using big vocabulary words,” added student Xavier Bears. “My teacher helped me learn some new things and grow my ability to write better.”

Both Darting and Nardi enjoy their students, and the Energy Bus has just made class time better.

“I have wonderful students in my class. They’re a delightful group to teach,” said Darting.

“They're funny and they're hardworking and they're all different, but they love each other, and they get along, and we've built a family,” said Nardi of her class. “It’s really important that we have a family in the classroom.”

This classroom family learns with and from each other in fun ways.

“We have a lot of learning, but they add fun into the mix. The economics, unit last year, we were learning how to spend and use money. The way [our teachers] did it was really fun because we got to make our products and sell it for fake dollars," said student Lorelei Holtzinger.

Like a school bus, Blue Heron tries to warm-up its learning engine at the beginning of every day in a very specific way.

“We have this soft start. Instead of coming in and playing in the morning, like waiting for the bell to ring, we can go in, start working and get our brains right before school starts,” explained student Landen Fugenschuh.

And if those brains overheat, just like school buses sometimes do, there's always the maintenance station to cool them down.

"Either teachers in their classroom or even students in my room need a five-minute break to either calm down,” explained Blue Heron teacher Diana Garren. “Or, if they’re feeling sad, or overwhelmed, they can set the timer for five minutes and then choose a coping skill to start feeling better and then they can head back to class.”

Garren added that the students are making these behavior adjustments on their own.

“They are independent when they do it. So, if they're being sent from another room, they do it all by themselves, so they're not interrupting my teaching,” she explained. “All the kids were taught how to use it. It works really well.”

What else works really well? Blue Heron’s commitment to its community, as evidenced by the many charitable events Blue Heron sponsors.

“We’re very giving. Lots of families willing to share their resources that we’ve been blessed with” said Darting.

“The food drive, when we do that every year, I think we're helping people. Fresh fruit helps them if they don't have enough money,” added Holtzinger.

And then there are the kindness trackers.

“If they were kind, we tell the parents what they did that was kind,” explained Nardi. “If they weren’t kind, we tell the parents what they did that wasn’t kind, and we start new the next day.”

"I think it's a way to motivate students into being better people just as a whole. Which I think is good to have that motivation factor because we're kids, we need that,” added Grote.

Another point of pride: the fact that nearly 50 percent of students at Blue Heron are here because of choice enrollment. They’ve hopped onboard the Energy Bus because their families have heard about the ride.

“We all care about each other,” said Pruitt.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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