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Think First/Character Ed

The Orinda Unified School District (OUSD) has adopted a highly regarded character education curriculum for its elementary schools  — Think First.   Del Rey is one of the beneficiaries of this fine program.   With Think First, students in grades K-5 learn how to manage their emotions, develop empathy for others, and solve problems cooperatively.   The district-wide implementation of Think First represents a significant investment in the social-emotional development of our youth, and it gives Del Rey students a shared language around social behaviors in a community where respect is a core value.     

 

At Del Rey, Think First lessons are taught by teachers or trained parent volunteers.   These dedicated volunteers prepare and deliver ten lessons to each classroom between October and February, using research-based teaching materials provided by OUSD and produced by Committee for Children, "a nonprofit working globally to prevent bullying, violence, and child abuse.”   There is a specific curriculum for each grade level.  Younger students enjoy half-hour classroom visits with the Second Step program; older students benefit from 45-minute visits with Steps to Respect.   Teaching materials include photo-story cards, colorful posters, catchy songs, games, and video vignettes for group discussion — plus puppets for kindergarten and first grades!  Throughout the learning cycle, Del Rey volunteers communicate with classroom parents to explain the curriculum and suggest ways to reinforce Think First lessons at home.  

 

Think First lessons are age-appropriate and dynamic.  They are designed to give students the tools to cope with and respond positively to some of the tough social situations that may come their way.   The curriculum teaches that “there are no bad feelings,” but acknowledges that there are uncomfortable and overwhelming feelings.   At all levels, children learn how strong feelings affect their brains and bodies — and what they can do about it.   The program champions calming-down techniques (e.g.: “belly breathing,” counting, positive self-talk) that help students act less impulsively and behave in socially adept ways.    Skill-building segments follow a logical progression, leading to key lessons on navigating difference and resolving conflicts.  The program emphasizes assertiveness (e.g.: how to join a group), resiliency (e.g.: what to do when joining is not successful), and empathy for others (e.g.: how to show caring and make amends).  Popular role-play activities allow children to practice behaviors in a supportive classroom environment — with real-life applications.  Older students are challenged by increasingly more sophisticated scenarios and nuanced discussions, and Del Rey volunteers ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate and feel confident in their abilities. 

 

A major goal in bringing Think First to Del Rey is to help create a caring and respectful learning environment where bullying is not tolerated.  In grades 3, 4, and 5, students are taught to identify and prevent bullying behavior using "the 3 R’s”:  Recognizing, Refusing, and Reporting.    During Think First lessons, students differentiate between “conflict” and “bullying,” and learn how to determine if a bullying situation is safe to refuse.    They role-play how to refuse and report bullying, and discuss possible outcomes.   Teachers and volunteers review the different ways staffers might handle bullying incidents at school — from quiet, subtle interventions on the playground to disciplinary action in the principal’s office.    The Think First curriculum also covers the important role of the bystander in bullying situations, identifying specific ways bystanders (or upstanders) can diffuse bullying or offer support to people who have been bullied.   At Del Rey, everyone takes responsibility for stopping bullying and creating a safe, friendly campus! 

 

In the spring, Think First volunteers return to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms for a short segment on substance abuse education.  Through video clips and classroom discussions, this curriculum provides non-judgmental information on the harmful effects of drugs on the minds and bodies of children.   Topics include alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, tobacco (smoked and smokeless), and improperly used over-the-counter and prescription medicines.   Role-play exercises offer students an opportunity to review Think First skills such as calming down, dealing with peer pressure, assessing the safety of a situation, and refusing with assertiveness.  

For more information about the program, please visit the Committee for Children website: http://www.cfchildren.org

To download sample Second Step posters for use at home, please click here:

To learn more about Think First at Del Rey, please contact your school coordinators:

Tamra Aguinaldo: Tamraaguinaldo@gmail.com
Jessica Kelly: jnjkelly@gmail.com