Guest column: Citizenship and life skills | AspenTimes.com

Guest column: Citizenship and life skills

Aspen Board of Education
Guest column

The Aspen School District and Board of Education believe that a strong foundation in mathematics, reading and writing are important skills for our students, and the board monitors student achievement in these areas annually. We also believe there are other equally important areas that contribute to educating our students to become responsible, caring global citizens. These attributes are reflected in our Life Skills and Citizen policies (R-3, R-4), and are areas of achievement that the board monitors annually, as well.

Within these policies are expectations for our students, K-12, which include, among other traits, responsibility and leadership, the skills to manage and resolve conflict, respect for others, compassion and fairness, good stewardship of the environment and the ability to place their own self-interest in perspective with the interests of others.

We believe these policies are community values and reflect who we want our students to be as they walk across the stage to accept their graduation diplomas and head off into the world. Not only do we believe in these values, but we support our children every step of the way as they begin their journey to graduation.

At the elementary school we provide a wide array of age-appropriate social/emotional programs, themes and activities that focus on responsibility, caring, respect, fairness, trust and citizenship. Additionally, we have a student manager program that focuses on conflict mediation and supporting others in positive decision making. Our counselor and assistant principal teach elements of the Second Step program promoting social skills and friendship and raising awareness of bullying at school, home and in the community. We support many classroom based projects that promote giving back to our local and national community. Examples of these programs are: Lemonade Day, Food Drive, St. Jude Math-A-Thon and The Kindness Project in fourth Grade. The elementary school also partners with the Buddy Program and hosts Read With Me volunteers who support students in reading and forge positive community relationships with our students.

A Culture of Character based on SKIER traits is emphasized on a daily basis at the middle school. The SKIER pillars are: Self, kindness, integrity, effort and respect. Each week, a specific SKIER trait is focused upon and discussed in class with all students. Various videos, readings and activities are used in an ongoing effort to promote our students to reflect upon character. We also regularly use a student self-assessment based upon the middle school SKIER traits, fostering students to further reflect upon their character and to identify areas for personal improvement. Middle school parents are involved in the process and are provided with opportunities to have regular conversations with their children pertaining to these essential topics.

The high school offers our students opportunities not only at an academic level but also through social activities to learn and grow and to foster more complex thinking around citizenship and their individual place in a global world. Courses such as American democracy and civics, ecological literacy and resource efficiency, comparative religions, introduction to philosophy and leadership: Aspen High School and Beyond, challenge our students to work collaboratively and effectively and hone critical thinking skills as they seek to understand global perspectives. Unity Week at the high school provides a weeklong celebration of diversity to increase cultural awareness within and among our student population.

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Through high school clubs our students identify individual interests, practice leadership and show respect with regard to diverse student interests. A sample of clubs supported at the high school include: Action in Africa, Aspen for Haiti, Aspen High School Democrats, Outreach Service Club and Young Republican Club.

The adage "it takes a village" continues to be true and the Aspen School District and the Board of Education look to partner with families and the community as we strive to guide our youth to act responsibly, thoughtfully, kindly and compassionately.

The Aspen Board of Education consists of members Margeaux Johansson, Susan Marolt, Sandra Peirce, Dwayne Romero and Sheila Kennedy Wills.