Berkeley Elementary’s character education program promotes self motivation and peaceful resolutions

Berkeley Elementary's character education program promotes self motivation and peaceful resolutions (Image 1)

Students at Berkeley Elementary are self motivated and self disciplined. It’s a school with national distinction. We’re in Moncks Corner for our last Cool School of the week before the summer break.

Students in the first and second grade multi-age class know a lot about character. That’s because Berkeley Elementary, with nearly 700 students in four-year-old preschool through the second grade is a national school of character, the only school in the district. Principal Tracy Gaskins says, “In 2012 we were 1 of 28 internationally, United States and Puerto Rico to be recognized. We went to Washington D.C. to receive the award. It teaches those soft skills because you can learn academics, but you have to learn to get along to work together in society… and that’s what we teach them.. we do have everybody in this community, very diverse population, and we want everybody to get along, and be peacemakers because they can take those skills out into the community and workplace.”

Schools of character, sponsored by Character Education Partnership in Washington, D.C. are schools that encourage student achievement through mutual respect, and integrity. Every Monday, the entire school meets as a family for a character lesson. Students have one character word a month.

First grade student Natalie Williamson says, “Respect, perseverance, responsibility, honesty, kindness, caring, fairness and cooperation. We always need to know what to do and how to do it because sometimes there is a lesson in it, and that we need to be taught, so we need those character words to learn.” Second-grade-student Rylee Fenters used her character word to face her fears to sing the National Anthem for the entire school.

The school’s annual end of year book parade is a celebration of the books students read throughout the year, which symbolized character words. Multi-age teacher Stephanie Wallace says, “All of the emphasis we put on those words, and the way the teachers are integrating them into classroom instructions, we are teaching character through our standards based lessons, through literature, through poetry and just through cooperative activities everyday. It’s helping them to not only internalize those messages but also to apply them. It’s been amazing to watch our kids who have been here since 4-k or kindergarten now in first or second grade with me. All of the things they’re able to verbalize and all of things they’re able to show others and model for others. Berkeley Elementary has done a fantastic job with infusing rigorous curriculum with character education to help build our future leaders.”

Students use peaceful resolution methods to talk through their problems. Second-grade-student Miller Whetzel says, “We want to have a peaceful school, and we want to have world peace.” Second grade students Chancellor Washington says, “We problem solve for people that has sad faces or mad faces. That’s why we have a cool school because our whole area is peace.”

Principal Gaskins says since implementing character education, discipline problems have decreased and the school’s attendance rate is consistently high.

Coming up Friday on News 2 Today, we will present The Berkeley Elementary Fawns with our Cool School award.

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