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Culture and Climate Initiative Wharton

Borough Public School District, Wharton, New Jersey
Borough Public School District
New Jersey
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Wharton Borough schools wants to ensure all students and their families—including transients from Central America—feel welcome and become active in the education community.

The district partnered in 2015-16 with the United Way and College of St. Elizabeth to create a student group named Duffy Force. It consists of  students in grades 3 through 5 who developed, with teacher help, homeroom activities and character building core values videos for others to view.

The homeroom discussion points help spread respect, kindness and goodwill, with Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer’s book How Full is Your Bucket? serving as a backbone to the program.

The students then developed their own homeroom discussion points. Students also invited emergency service providers, such as police and EMT personnel, to explain different aspects of their profession.

Since implementation, student discipline referrals have reduced by more than 50 percent in the elementary school.

To start your own program, the main element is to generate excitement among students. It must be student-driven so it endures when its leaders graduate each year. Students will develop a greater sense of engagement when they feel they can initiate and sustain change.