True North AmeriCorps Helping Children In Schools
DULUTH, Minn. — These second graders at Marshall Forest School are back in class learning reading, writing, and arithmetic after two years being away from a school room. They are also having to learn or relearn something else.
8-year-old Lola Ray and the rest of the students are also learning about dealing with their feelings and with others, thanks to AmeriCorps members in the school.
“Our AmeriCorps is mainly Cailee. She’s able to like if we are feeling upset, she’ll have us go on a walk around the building, she has special things we can do,” said Lola Ray.
The learning and growth takes place both indoors and out. Working on a winter temperature project does more than just teach some science. The kids are also enjoying themselves, interacting with each other, and are often more likely to share what’s on their mind.
Since September students have been put into 15 member crews. They are learning about Social, Emotional Learning, or SEL. In smaller groups students are encouraged to talk about their feelings. Cailee Peterson is one of the AmeriCorps members.
“Especially at the beginning of the year. It was like how was your day today? How did you feel today? And they’d say, good and that’s it. Slowly, we’re building into, I was a little anxious about doing this today, but I got over it and I had a friend help me,” said Cailee Peterson.
Peterson says that while the students have become more expressive, she realizes that she too has personally grown and learned more about how she deals with social, emotional learning.
This program is in 30 schools and other places such as Boys and Girls clubs in the northeastern part of the state. Program Director Alice Werle says that through assessments with students who were in an SEL program a 70 percent increase in SEL behaviors was attained last year. Student’s academics also improved.
“If a student is coming to the school day and they’re feeling anxious or didn’t sleep well, it’s really helpful to know that so that you can provide them with strategies so they’re ready to learn,” said Alice Werle.
Marshall Forest’s Principal, Matt Whittaker, says he’s already seen improvements in the students.
“One of the keys is that these students have been through trauma to certain degrees, and to have these tools then, to be helping them move through. Understand, yea, this is hard, and you can do hard things. It’s been really good to see over the last several months,” said Matt Whittaker.
Whittaker says he’s thankful the AmeriCorps members are working with the students to help them cope with their social and emotional needs.