ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Taking a Whole Child Approach

ASCD Annual Conference

Post submitted by whole child blogger Caroline Newton, a sophomore at Temple University. Newton is studying journalism and writes for Jump: The Philly Music Project magazine.

Studies show that 30 percent of high school graduates must take some type of remediation at the college level. What is it about the current structure of education that is failing students? The Whole Child Tenets aim to assist educators in creating a system that caters to each student's individual needs and prepare them for lifelong success. At ASCD's recent Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pa., Molly McCloskey, managing director of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative, was joined by Bill Hughes, superintendent of Greendale School District in Greendale, Wis., in a discussion of the whole child approach.

"What we believe is that each child from each school and each community must be healthy and safe and engaged and supported and challenged. The two key words being each and and," McCloskey enthusiastically told the audience.

Maslow's Theory of Hierarchical Needs requires that health is the base of the hierarchy and challenged is the top; each need is dependent on the one or ones below it. "Without engagement and support, a child can't be challenged," McCloskey noted.

Today, the problem with most policies that go through boards of education is that they may be great in addressing one of the five needs, but not all, said McCloskey. Therefore, they are ineffective in advancing the welfare of the students.

Greendale School District is currently implementing the Whole Child approach. Bill Hughes walked through some of the ways Greendale has embedded the ideals. For example, every school in the district has a garden. The garden makes the school look better, engages the kids with the school, and gives the kids extra time to connect with their teachers, Hughes explained. "Kids will learn more when they are connected to their teachers," he said.

Linking community involvement and classroom lessons is also very important to the whole child approach. One of the books on Greendale's curriculum is John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Instead of simply reading the material and discussing it in class, students are taken to volunteer at food kitchens where they see that homelessness is still an issue today. The students are thereby connecting the learning material with the surrounding community, which will help make them more engaged citizens.

In the current approach, the constant is the factors involved in a typical school day, like committed time structures, and the variable is the student learning.

For five years ASCD has been committed to the whole child approach. The time has come to put the students first and create an education system under which graduating students will be ready for success in their future endeavors, whatever they may choose to pursue.

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