BELMAR, NJ — Be respectful, responsible and kind. At Belmar Elementary School, those positive behaviors could earn students an invitation to its new Eagle’s Nest, named for the school’s mascot.
Students got their first look today at the recently created “nest,” which is filled with an assortment of games and activities — a fun, comfortable space for students to enjoy free time as a reward for following the principles of the school’s “Soar to Excellence” program.
“When a student is observed being kind, respectful or responsible, they are acknowledged for that positive behavior,” said teacher Amy Skelton, a member of the school’s Soar Team, which has spearheaded the effort.
That recognition comes in the form of feather-shaped tickets they are given by members of the school’s staff. And each week, two students at each upper grade level are selected in a random drawing of those tickets to spend their recess time for one day in the Eagle’s Nest — each with a friend.
There’s plenty to do during the 30-minute break — from playing video games, foosball, cornhole and board games to making crafts, drawing pictures, listening to music or watching a video. There’s even a yoga mat for meditation and relaxation.
To reinforce the message of positive behavior, there are signs throughout the school reminding students of these “expectations”— whether they’re in the classroom or hallways, or even arriving to school. For example, students are asked to be on time, enter the building quietly and go directly to their destination each morning. Hallway expectations include keeping hands, feet and objects to themselves, staying to the right and walking quietly.
While the reward and recognition program is currently open to students in grades five through eight, it is expected to eventually be made available to youngsters in the lower grades.
The Eagle’s Nest was made possible through Belmar Elementary School’s participation in the state’s Positive Behavior Supports in Schools (PBSIS) initiative — a collaboration of the N.J. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center.
The PBSIS philosophy centers around the importance of a healthy and positive classroom climate in preventing problem behavior among students. It emphasizes that teachers play a vital role in creating a learning environment that ensures students receive what they need to be successful and achieve their goals — academically, emotionally and socially.
Last year, Belmar’s Soar Team received PBSIS training from a Rutgers representative in order to implement the program this year with the opening of the Eagle’s Nest. Belmar’s team includes teachers Kimberly Veltre, Karen Gianforte, Pamela Lockwood, Stephanie Curcio, Amy Skelton and Paul Charette, as well school counselor Jennifer Cozzarelli, social worker Alexandra Laird and principal Sarah Wilton.
The Belmar Elementary School PTO, whose members were on hand for the open house, also contributed items to furnish the room.
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