Parents often ask me how SPARK supports “The Whole Child”. This phrase is popular among experts in education, parenting, and medicine. Fortunately, it is also a stated priority of our new Superintendent to focus on “the Whole Child.” As your Principal, I would like to share with you my thoughts, beliefs and efforts to support the whole child at SPARK which begins with creating a child-friendly school where kids are happy, safe, and healthy.
- First and foremost, I believe that school should be a safe place for kids. I work diligently with the faculty and staff at SPARK to ensure that our students are consistently well supervised and monitored. For example, our children are not allowed to walk outside on the SPARK campus without an adult. In youngest grades, students walk with a peer buddy to various locations inside the school building.
- I believe that children should receive love and care at school. This is initially evident when students step off the bus, out of their cars or enter the building as they are greeted with a smile, a wave or a hug which clearly lets them know that caring adults are waiting for them. My administrative team and I make every effort to know the names of all of our SPARK students. (Yes! All 668 of them!)
- I believe that our elementary school building should be bright, inviting, clean and well organized. Children and parents notice when the SPARK classrooms and hallways bulletin boards are bright and colorful and include high quality, stimulating student work samples.
- I believe in supporting all of the various individual needs of our students. At SPARK, we have a very diverse student body that requires that we provide programming and support to ensure that all of our students, regardless of their needs, have the opportunity to achieve at the highest level.
It is with great privilege and responsibility that my staff and I balance these aspects of your child’s development:
I hope you will read the long list of programs and policies (see info below) that we have put in place to support the Whole Child at SPARK. Each program and policy maps to the Safety, Social, Emotional, Cognitive or Physical Development of the Whole Child.
Thank you for your continued support.
Terry G. Harness, Jr.
Develops: Physical, Social
- Physical Education 2 times/week for all grades. Students in grades K-3 get three additional weeks of PE per semester.
- Recess time every day. Kindergartners get an additional 40-45 minutes of recess time 1 day a week.
- Recess and Discipline policy – SPARK minimizes the removal of recess for discipline. Students in all grades will not lose more than 5 minutes of recess time as a part of the primary grades behavior management/consequences plan.
Academic Enrichment & Incorporating Diverse Learning Styles
Nutrition and Health
- Fresh Fruit Fridays (Whole Foods Ponce partnership)
- Candy-free & cupcake-free policies
- PE lessons (ex.: exercise, health topics)
- Science Enrichment Labs (ex.: lessons about eating sugar)
- Switch Witch (bring 1 quart of your Halloween candy to be exchanged for a book)
- Walk & Bike to School Days
Develops: Cognitive, Social, Emotional
- Science Lab Lessons (ex.: recycling)
- Green Teams (4th and 5th graders)
- Roof-top Garden
- Composting in Cafe
- Ink cartridge recycling
- Communication policies that limit the printing of backpack fliers
Culture, Fine Arts, Visual Arts
- Visual Arts with full-time art teacher
- Music programs for all kids
- Special Music programs (ex.: Chorus, Band)
- Teachers incorporate lessons about culture (ex.: other holiday traditions)
- Foreign Language (Spanish Department)
- Field trips
Character & Mental Health
Develops: Safety, Cognitive, Social, Emotional, Physical
- Students memorize our school rules – Be Responsible. Be Respectful. Be a Good Citizen. Be Green.
- School Counselor on-site. Organizes lessons and events on topics such as drug prevention and bullying. Students can come to her in confidence with family, emotional, social concerns.
- Teachers “Sparkle” each other. When one of them sees a colleague doing an act of kindness, they post a sign on the teacher’s door to recognize it.
- Student “Sparklers” – Each month, each classroom votes for a peer from their class that they feel has best embodied a certain character trait (ex: Most Respectful)
- Discipline Policies – Staff uses positive behavior management.
Leadership, Independence, Organization, Time-Management
Develops: Cognitive, Social, Emotional
- Student Government
- Green Team and Sustainability Team (4th and 5th graders)
- Peer Tutoring Initiative (coming in 2015)
- Student Agendas – Each student keeps a personal notebook (agenda) with a calendar where they track their assignments. Teaches time management and organizational skills.
- Student Lockers – 5th graders learn to keep their personal items organized, preparing them for middle school independence.
Develops: Emotional, Social
- Coat drive
- Canned food drive
- Write letters to troops
After School Programming
Develops: Emotional, Social, Physical
After School Clubs are ALL about a child’s interest! They are not tied to any “standards”. Children get to choose clubs for pure enjoyment! SPARK’s After-School Classe program offers numerous clubs such as Girl Scouts, Soccer, Architecture, and Yoga.
Unstructured Play & Social Time
Develop: Emotional, Social, Physical
- Room parties
- Field trips
- A homework policy that recognizes the balance of cognitive needs with time at home with family to play. View the Homework Policy / Tips.
- Cafeteria policies – Students are allowed to talk at lunch, which is important social time.
- Playground equipment purchased by PTO. We are fortunate, as not all APS Elementary schools have a playground.