FRUITPORT TWP. — “We are Family” played through the school’s speakers as students found their friends and headed into classrooms.
Two to three times each month, the Shettler Elementary School staff and students spend 40 minutes in their “families,” which were developed with three goals in mind: teach social emotional education, foster positive school environment, and to introduce the students to other kids and adults who they might not usually see.
When “families” meet, they focus on lessons from the Caring School Community curriculum, which include lessons with objectives related to social skills or character traits, according to Janelle Duffey, principal of the school in the Fruitport district. Each lesson comes with objectives and mini lessons.
“Families” include students in kindergarten through fifth grade and two adult staff members. Each time they meet, students wear Shettler H.E.R.O.s (Helping Everyone Respect Others) shirts. Each grade level wears certain color shirts and adults wear tie-dye shirts.
Once Duffey starts playing “We are Family,” fifth-graders pick up kindergarten and first-graders and walk them to their “families.”
The first few weeks of the program have been focused on building community by creating names, secret handshakes, taking “family” pictures and setting goals for themselves. Some of the “family” names include Fruitport Phoenix Family, Incredifam, All-Star Family, Super Dynamic Trojans, Captain Shettler, Trojan Heroes, Family Rockstars, Trojan Superheroes, Mendez Marvels, Shettler Rainbow Heroes, Mini Emojis Family and the Walkie Talkies.
Second-grader Anders Keglovitz said his “family” chose the name Incredifam for one reason: “All of us are incredible in our own way,” he said.
Fourth-grader Griffin Rushing said he likes the time with his classmates because they “do fun school work.”
Spending time in “families” is educational, fun and gives students a chance to make more friends, said fourth-grader Jessica Spencer.
Fifth-grade teacher Donna Burns said the group has done a lot of work behind the scenes in planning the activities and “families.” She noted the entire staff is involved and committed.
“We see the value in it,” Burns said.
The “families” are already building relationships with students who have started referring to each other as family members, Burns added.
Burns said she believes in teaching students how to be kind, respectful and love each other, and the “families” will help foster that.
“It’s all about relationships,” she said.