May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and now more than ever, we all need community. Three Oaks is proud to foster an inviting environment where everyone who enters the building feels welcome and a part of their school family. No one ever walks their halls alone, and people feel important and valued.
“We are intentional about the curriculum we teach and the lessons we weave into our learning to help support our mission of developing community leaders,” shared Monecia Vasbinder, school principal.
For Three Oaks, a pivotal part of molding students to be engaged, feel empowered and embody excellence is through their PERCS program.PERCS stands for Providing Emotional Wellness through Responsibility, Character Traits and Service-Learning.
Mrs. Cummins, the Behavioral Interventionist champions the PERCS coursework, focusing on mindfulness, and social-emotional learning. Mrs. Cummins works with every student to allow them to connect with their emotions, talk through what they feel and learn positive behavior mechanics to approach and handle situations.
Mrs. Cummins shared, “We feel that learning social skills and coping strategies is just as important as reading and math, more so because children who are mentally well are better equipped to handle the academic challenges of school. We approach emotional education the same way we would approach a new reading skill. We introduce the skill or strategy, model how and when to use it, and practice, practice, practice. We also help the children to understand why it’s important to learn these skills.”
Mrs. Cummins encourages her students to participate in relaxation and breathing techniques so that they are able to use these mechanisms to work through their emotions in times of stress and anxiety, such as testing.
“Our students have learned a technique to hold up one hand and when they touch the tip of one finger, they inhale, then when tracing their finger through the webs of their hand, they exhale. Then repeat the cycle, so that it teaches them to focus on breathing and calming their nerves.”
The teachings of the PERCS program also include role playing scenarios that may occur in age-appropriate groups. Mrs. Cummins tasks the students to identify the different emotions portrayed in the situation, allowing each child how to not only identify emotions but learn how they can properly help and support.
“These lessons are not just for the students, but for all of us, really. It’s an opportunity to focus on spreading kindness to fellow classmates, staff and family members. Our students have crafted hand-made cards and shared them with staff members, and also actively participate in yearly service learning projects geared toward spreading kindness and help to the local community.”
Students are encouraged to set goals for themselves and are able to select on Monday what they wish to learn about or work toward, and on Friday learn and discuss how they accomplished or worked toward the goal they set for themselves.
“It’s really about helping the students see and feel for themselves what it’s like to effect positive change, whether in their life or someone else’s. We’re proud to equip them a little piece in molding the admirable character all our students have,” shares Mrs. Vasbinder.
Everyone at TOPSA values not only learning about mental health, but in empowering students to engage in conversations around social, emotional and mental well-being, and being comfortable with talking about their feelings. Each and every day students come to school with different emotions that significantly impact their days, and the Three Oaks staff has always been determined to support and care for the individual child to provide whatever support they need.
“This is who we are. We care for one another, we help each other always and will always work toward equipping ourselves to be the best allies and supporters of one another,” said Ms. Vasbinder.