If you visited Edwards Elementary School this year in the morning during student drop off time, you were likely greeted with a friendly smile and saw students high-fiving each other. This is the work of Safety Patrol, a rotating team of nearly 30 fifth graders who are taking the lead on establishing a positive environment in their building by greeting students at the front door and at designated points throughout the school.
Principal Kristi Mixdorf saw this concept modeled at another school and approached fifth-grade teacher Chris Douglas about implementing it at Edwards. Douglas said, “I told her I wanted to continue looking for leadership opportunities for our 5th graders so I decided to take the lead on this and told the kids and parents what we envisioned this looking like.”
The expectations for students are simple: when it is your rotation, be on time, always wear the safety patrol vests, and greet everyone with welcoming words. In communicating to students and parents, Edwards staff also noted that “positive energy is contagious,” already anticipating how this would positively impact the rest of the school.
Establishing a positive environment from the fifth graders sends a positive message to the rest of the student body. Associate Principal Matt Marietta said, “I think it comes naturally for the students,” adding “The older students gain a deeper sense of empathy and understanding for everybody in our building and they love seeing the younger students.” Each morning, the fifth graders are posted at the entrance where high-fives and hugs are common, but also at the entrance of the K-1 wing of the building as a way to build rapport with the youngest students in the building.
Douglas has also seen an impact in his classroom. “Fifth graders want to be leaders. They have all looked up to an older student at some point, so by the time they get to be that student, they are ready. It is our job to help them understand what leadership looks like, and it does not just happen when they are wearing those vests. It happens every part of every day. I tell them no matter where you go, there are younger students watching you model behavior choices for them.”