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This is the way ... to engage students. Baby Yoda duck won the school duck decorating contest.Golden Poppy Principal Stacy Williamson helps prepare for a staff sliming.Stacy Williamson visits the student of the week.
‘Fowl’ play is all about engagement
Frogs, bears and even ducks are part of this school’s engagement strategy
November 16, 2020
Building and promoting belongingness and connectedness in school is tough during normal times, but Golden Poppy Elementary School Principal Stacy Williamson doesn’t let the pandemic slow her down. She has spent the last six months creating ways to keep her students and staff deeply engaged in learning while throwing in a lot of fun.
Just recently Williamson and her staff participated in the local Kiwanis Club Rubber Duck Race, a fundraiser that supports both the local community and her school. Staff engagement grew each week as new and unique ideas were created to encourage duck adoptions, including slime dunking the teachers, promotional videos, and classroom and grade level competitions.
When notified that a surprise visit from the Lunch Box Food Truck was happening in 24 hours, Williamson rallied the staff and Golden Poppy families. Where normally 100 families participated in drive-through lunch pick-up, the Lunch Box Food Truck visit brought over 300 families on that day. Duck sales tripled and by the end of the fundraiser over 1,800 rubber duck “adoptions” were recorded for Golden Poppy, bringing in $3,600 in funds for the school in the Palmdale School District. The remaining funds support the district’s Citizen of the Month/Year and the Head Start Christmas Food Basket and Gift Program, thus teaching students part of being kind is giving back to the larger community.
During Teacher Appreciation week, Williamson dressed as Cinderella and taught. Teachers enjoyed the day off as she donned her teacher hat once again and spent the day teaching fun and engaging lessons to the children. Additionally, when a teacher is absent, she has been known to take the class for the day.
Recognizing the increased importance of parents as teacher helpers during distance learning, the staff celebrated parents by sending them a tribute video stating their “hero” status. Select parents from groups like PTA, ELAC and School Site Council also received appreciative yard signs. The signs read proudly, “Shout Out to Our Parents, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.”
At Golden Poppy, parent needs are also addressed through Grizzly Parent Connection, a bi-weekly meeting for those parents who are “bearly” making it. Parents are given the opportunity to share their struggles and successes around virtual learning through an open forum. One parent shared her child’s struggle with transitions and time on task. Williamson reported, “When hearing about this parents’ struggle, another parent left the Zoom meeting and came back with a poster board with Post-It notes and described her daughter’s process of removing each Post-It note after completing her assigned task and knowing her next task by reading the next Post-It note.”
Bob the Frog is a key figure for distance learning. He is a puppet who became an unofficial mascot at Golden Poppy. Williamson uses Bob to make announcements and the students seem to love him. He will pop into classes to sing happy birthday, encouraging students in their learning. Not only has he participated in parades in the neighborhood, but also has a seven-episode series called Bob’s Amazing Duck Adventure. In the video, Bob and friends attempt to help the children at Golden Poppy by finding a duck for the duck race. Williamson released an episode a day to build excitement for the contest and to keep students connected.
Williamson said that rigor in the classroom is always a challenge, complicated even more now by distance learning.
“We’ve got to have some fun, build our teams, and cohesive classrooms where students feel valued an appreciated. We must be purposeful about this and not complacent,” she said. “I work on building a sense of belongingness as a staff, to model the work and talk with staff about how to do the same in their own classrooms. First we have fun, then we work, and then we deepen the rigor and expectations.”
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