Return to Headlines

Parma Park Elementary safety plans teach important social and emotional skills

Parma Park safety plans May 4, 2020


Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath‭, ‬count to 10‭ ‬or think of your happy place in times of stress‭, ‬anxiety and high emotions‭.‬

Students and staff at Parma Park Elementary School practiced these social-emotional and coping skills through the creation and implementation of safety plans this school year‭.‬

“The idea of the safety plan is that we all get angry‭, ‬overwhelmed‭, ‬stressed and frustrated‭, ‬but what is the safety plan in the school in terms of finding little things we can do during the day to help us through those times‭,‬”‭ ‬Parma Park Principal Wendy Jewell explained‭. ‬“This is teaching self-regulation skills‭.‬”

‭ ‬“Ultimately our job revolves around student learning‭, ‬but what I know for sure is that kids can’t learn academics when they are thinking about all other kinds of things‭,‬”‭ ‬she further shared‭. ‬“To improve achievement‭, ‬we have to recognize and teach kids social-emotional skills‭. ‬Then we will see kids take off in their learning‭.‬”

Every student‭, ‬teacher and staff member has individualized safety plans that they wear every school day with ways to calm down that work specifically for them‭.‬

Safety plans first started with staff during a professional development day‭. ‬Jewell believed that the staff needed to take time‭ ‬to focus on self-care‭.‬

“To take care of our students‭, ‬we first need a healthy staff‭,‬”‭ ‬she expressed‭.‬

The school generated interest among students by the staff talking about their safety plans and how safety plans work‭.‬

“What I have asked teachers to do is model it for students‭,‬”‭ ‬Jewell described‭. ‬“Just like we model instruction for students‭, ‬we need to model behaviors‭. ‬I also believe we need to provide students the opportunity to practice it throughout the day before they have to use it‭. ‬That is a key component to the success of this‭.‬”

Students then created their own plans‭, ‬which are just a few simple‭, ‬little things they can do when they feel upset and emotional‭ ‬to get through that moment‭.‬

“This gives everyone the chance to stop and think why they are feeling this way and calm down‭,‬”‭ ‬shared Amanda Schweter fourth-grade teacher at Parma Park‭. ‬“While we were making them‭, ‬students were very open about stress and things that make them nervous or anxious‭. ‬It has been really‭ ‬helpful to have these conversations in my classroom‭.‬”

Schweter added that she had discussions with her class about what it feels like to be calm‭, ‬so when they are emotional‭, ‬they can‭ ‬get their minds and bodies back to that calm state‭.‬

To find that calm state‭, ‬students‭, ‬like fourth-graders Dexter Butram and Melanie Rivera-Lough‭, ‬not only wrote how to calm down but also included photos‭, ‬stickers and drawings that make them happy‭.‬

“I put take a deep breath‭, ‬close my eyes and think of a happy place because that is what calms me down‭,‬”‭ ‬Dexter explained‭. ‬“I also put a picture of a tiger‭, ‬monkeys‭, ‬grizzly bear‭, ‬deer‭, ‬fish and coyote because those are my favorite animals and remind me of my family‭.‬”

“I wrote on mine count to 100‭, ‬drawing‭, ‬think about animals‭, ‬drink water‭, ‬ask for help‭, ‬reading‭, ‬writing‭, ‬take a deep breath‭, ‬and‭ ‬take a walk‭,‬”‭ ‬Melanie shared about her safety plan‭. ‬“Some of the stickers I put were jewels‭, ‬emojis‭, ‬sandals‭, ‬animals and colors because they help me to relax and they help me calm‭ ‬down‭.‬”

“I had a lot of fun making mine‭,‬”‭ ‬she added‭. ‬“It makes you think of stuff that helps you calm down‭. ‬You do start using it when you get upset‭. ‬You do calm down and make good choices‭. ‬I think the school should keep doing this because for new students‭, ‬it could help them a lot if they learn how to do it‭,‬‭ ‬know what it’s for and start using it‭.‬”

Schweter said she has seen a difference in her classroom and the school’s home liaison‭, ‬Lisa Eland‭, ‬has seen safety plans produce a positive result among all students‭.‬

“What I think is wonderful is that it normalizes that we all have these feelings and it helps us see that there are things that we can do to help ourselves‭,‬”‭ ‬Eland shared‭. ‬“This allows kids to find success in knowing what they can do to make themselves or the situation better‭. ‬It isn’t a weakness to talk about what’s going on and to figure out a way to improve‭, ‬it’s actually a strength‭.‬”


PHOTO CAPTION: An example of some of the safety plans made by students and staff at Parma Park Elementary School‭. ‬The plans hang on a lanyard so everyone can access these tips and ideas easily‭.‬