At Travis Heights Elementary School, we believe that children learn in various ways and that readiness for learning and academic success are heightened when children’s social, emotional, and physical well-being are fostered. The following are experiences that support The Whole Child:
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Capturing Kids Hearts
- Outdoor Learning Resources
- Movement and Learning
- Healthy Lifestyle Choices for Fueling the Body and Being Active
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a research-driven approach that focuses on student self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Students learn critical life skills such as recognizing and managing emotions, communicating appropriately, solving problems effectively and establishing positive relationships. SEL creates a foundation that enhances learning.
Our school began the AISD SEL curriculum from Second Step, in 2012 and continues to support this program as it reaches beyond the classroom to all aspects of our children’s life. Skills are integrated in academic lessons, strengthened with the use of common vocabulary and practiced to enhance the climate of the school. The hope is to extend the learnings from school to home so that parents can reinforce SEL skills as well.
For More Information and Parent Resources, visit the Austin ISD SEL & CPI website.
Capturing Kids Hearts
To further support the implementation of social and emotional growth on our campus, our staff received training in Capturing Kids Hearts in Summer 2015. This program assists the school community in fostering healthy relationships with adults and hopefully positively impacts peer-to-peer relationships. The Capturing Kids Hearts’ training compliments our campus’ SEL model. Simply put, children are better able to learn when they feel safe, understood, and cared for by those in their school community.
Outdoor Learning Resources
Learning happens within the school building, but it also happens outdoors in nature’s classroom. At Travis Heights Elementary School, teachers have opportunities to facilitate learning through nature by accessing numerous outdoor learning areas on our campus!
–Wildman Woods is a place where play and learning crossover under a canopy of trees. Its musical garden was constructed by THES alumni, Quinn Simpson, with the support of the PTA in memory of teacher, friend, and musician, Gene Wildman Brandon. The musical garden, the balance beam tree trunks, and rolling logs allow children to engage in imaginative and non-structured play that lends itself to curious exploration, problem-solving, and a whole lot of organic fun!
–The Coop was constructed in 2014 as a Girl Scout Award Project by Kelli Robertson and is the home of 8 lovely egg-producing hens who get the best lovin’ care and meals this side of Ladybird Lake! In addition to its fun and aesthetic presence, The Coop allows teachers to facilitate learning about animal lifecycles, economies, responsibility, and compassion for living creatures by integrating daily upkeep and care for the coop within their class curriculum and/or area of interest. Believe it or not, these fine fowl friends also have a therapeutic touch for many of our children and grown-ups alike!
–The Gardens were started by folks from the Sustainable Food Center’s Community Garden and parents many moons ago. They continue to grow and thrive with support from teachers, parents, and our children. Teachers have opportunities to integrate gardening into their curriculum as they see fit. The Gardens are also used by afterschool enrichment programs which learn about principles of gardening as well as garden-to-table cooking!
–Blunn Creek/Big Stacy Park is a natural resource that inspires learning by its very presence. With teacher support and under a watchful eye, students use the creek and the park to discover and learn through structured and unstructured play and exploration!
–Active Play Markings are stencil paintings that decorate the sidewalks and playpad around the school’s exterior. These markings allow teachers and children to get from place to place in an active and fun fashion. During recess, the children use stencil paintings to create their own games or play educational games inspired by the stencils.
Movement and Learning
We want our students healthy and moving because research shows that active movement within classrooms facilitates student engagement, memory, creativity, and overall learning. And it’s fun too! To this end, THES worked with Michele Rusnak from AISD on using “Brain Breaks” for every classroom. Brain Breaks are short periods throughout the day where students stand up and move their bodies in a teacher-led activity which gets their blood flowing and minds refocused. Online resources such as Go Noodle and similar programs are popular for brain breaks and can even be accessed from home for free.
With the leadership of THES parent and artistic director, Allison Orr, our school & Forklift Danceworks received a grant from MindPop in 2014 and the initiative across Austin to expand creative learning in the classroom. Forklift Danceworks’ Teaching Artist, Krissie Marty, led teacher trainings and classroom coaching to enliven everyday learning with creative movement. The strategies learned in these lessons continue to be utilized across our campus.
Additionally many of our Dual Language teachers utilize Total Physical Response (TPR). In this language learning method, teachers pair words with physical movements to engage both hemispheres of the brain and enhance comprehension and second language acquisition.
Nothing can stop the Thunderbird Staff from learning creative and fun ways to get our children up, thinking, and learning!
While our Physical Education curriculum teaches and encourages children to enjoy a balanced and healthy diet, many of our classrooms support only healthy community snacks (donation of snacks for the entire class) which are low in sugar and food coloring, and as unprocessed as possible. We encourage drinking water by allowing children to have reusable water bottles accessible that also educates children about healthy hydration. Cafeteria lunch options have become healthier over the years, and conversations continue to happen relating to increasing choice on our school menu. Vegetarian options are now available daily, and the school district introduced a salad bar in late 2015 as another healthy food choice. Additionally in 2016 our kitchen became nut-free to better serve our students with nut-allergies.
We engage our families and community in learning more about fitness and healthy lifestyles through our annual Family, Fun & Fitness Day. Students and their families participate together in a variety of field day activities and discussions about healthy habits. Additionally, we encourage students to participate in the Marathon Kids program, where students walk or run a marathon over the course of a few weeks either on their own at home with family or at school with their class. Fun incentives motivate the kids to keep going.