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Growing new leaders at Chanute Elementary

Posted Date: 10/30/2018

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Throughout any given week at Chanute Elementary, visitors can see fifth graders helping younger students cross the street, pick up paper, plastic bottles and cans for recycling and deliver notes to secretaries. They also plan school-wide fundraising projects for all their classmates.

With a school emphasis on teaching community service, Assistant Principal Eric Hoops serves as an advisor to a new crop of Fifth Grade Leadership Team members every year.

“We want them to be responsible, creative, self-driven and have the ability to complete projects that make CES a better place,” Hoops said. To stay focused, the team adopted this mission statement:

“The 5th Grade Leadership Team will make CES a better place

by doing things to improve our school.”

Last year’s team adopted Pennies for Patients and raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They also collected pop tabs that were recycled and the money donated to Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City. This year’s team started the school year by helping the local Love’s Travel Store reach its goal of raising $3,000 for Children’s Miracle Hospitals that provide medical care to children, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

The students learn how to plan and carry out a fundraising campaign, and  they’re good at coming up with incentives to get their peers excited to contribute – last year all three principals agreed to kiss a pig after the students collected well over their pop tab collection goal.

“I want to be on the leadership team to prove I can be a good leader and I can help people,” said fifth grader Willow Vaughn.

“I think it’s a great team,” added Keaton Baker. “I just like helping people.”

To most students on the team, it isn’t about fundraising.

One is waiting to read to kindergartners “so I can bring them into the adventure and wonder of books,” while another is anxious to create the motivational posters for the school hallways.

During weekly Friday meetings, the students eat their lunch and follow that day’s agenda projected onto the Smartboard at one wall of the school’s conference room.

At each agenda item, Hoops writes notes onto the document, checks off items students have completed, and adds names, including his own, to tasks the team members say they will do.

One boy asks when the kindergartners will be ready for the team members to read to them. Hoops replied that he talked with the teachers and the kindergartners are still settling into being in kindergarten and aren’t quite ready for visitors disrupting their class.

They discuss Teacher Appreciation, and how to select a winner for each week. It’s suggested that it should be open to all staff, not only teachers. They vote, and Hoops records the changes.

Through the agenda process, Hoops is teaching a multitude of skills, besides planning and carrying out a community service or fundraising project.

They know they have a voice in the decision-making process.

They know they will be held accountable for what they say they will do.

They know they can ask questions, make suggestions, and vote to adjust anything on the agenda.

“I just want to be able to help everybody I can, and help everyone make CES a place everyone wants to be,” said Kiley Dillow.

The experience is proving to be a powerful tool to build new leaders.