By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER — Any teacher will tell you, ice-breakers are vital to warming up students and getting them talking.
So while grouping kids and having them ask each other “What’s your favorite pizza topping?” or “What kinds of movies do you like to watch?” might not seem important, those questions serve a purpose: fostering relationships.
About 50 K-6 St. Peter students forged such bonds Friday afternoon at the St. Peter Community Center, and all in the name of bettering bus rides to and from school.
South Elementary Principal Dan Doherty said the pilot program, called Peaceful School Bus, begins with retreats to the community center to help promote positive relationships between bus riders. Teachers, counselors and bus drivers take part as well.
South and other schools have implemented a Positive Behavior Interventions and Support system that collects information and incidents related to student behavior. Patterns emerge, and one area identified as needing intervention was on the school bus, Doherty said.
“Some kids are not using Star Pride,” Doherty said, referring to positive school spirit and behavior.
For the pilot, two of the six buses were selected to take part. In addition to retreats, school staff and Saints Bus Services staff will ride the buses periodically to talk with the students and keep an eye on things.
Doherty said the coolest part about Peaceful Bus retreats is that the students are the ones who decide what good and bad bus behavior look like. When they have ownership over those concepts, they’re more likely to want to employ them.
(During breakout sessions) we ask, ‘What are the behaviors we want on the bus?’ ... ‘What behaviors should we kick off the bus?’” Doherty said, adding that the K-2 students who had participated came up with great answers that dealt with kindness and respect. “Some of the ideas they came up with were exactly what you want to hear.”