Why "Whole Child"
Aside from the immediate family, the school district is the most important institution in a community, as children spend approximately 17,000 hours in school from kindergarten to graduation. The traditional school model has been focused on the development of cognitive skills and knowledge, a targeting the “3 R’s” (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic) to increase literacy and numeracy. As society becomes increasingly more complex, and the science of child development and attachment has grown; communities and schools understand that they need to develop and nurture the “Whole Child”, not simply strive for academic success.
The Curriculum Audit of Coeur d’Alene Public Schools released in April 2019 recommended the district take steps to allocate equitable resources based on student needs and provide equal access to comparable programs, services and opportunities to impact student achievement. Educational equity is influenced considerably by the physical, emotional and social needs of students; also identified as the “whole child”. Utilizing a holistic approach to identify and meet the underlying needs of each student is foundational to student success, achievement and closing the equity gap.
The Coeur d’Alene School District believes that public schools are a place for all students, regardless of background, history, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status, to nurture and grow their cognitive, emotional, relational and physical being. The Coeur d’Alene School District is committed to developing the whole child.
Whole Child System of Care
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) empowers educators to achieve excellence through whole child engagement.
We live in a global economy that requires our students to be prepared to think both critically and creatively, evaluate massive amounts of information, solve complex problems, and communicate well. A strong foundation in reading, writing, math, and other core subjects is still as important as ever, yet by itself is insufficient for lifelong success. For too long, we have committed to time structures, coursework, instructional methods, and assessments designed more than a century ago. Our current definition of student success is too narrow. It is time to put students first, align resources to students’ multiple needs, and advocate for a more balanced approach. A child who enters school healthy and feels safe is ready to learn. A student who feels connected to school is more likely to stay in school. All students who have access to challenging and engaging academic programs are better prepared for further education, work and civic life. These components must work together, not in isolation. That is the goal of whole child education. The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education policy and practice— a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement. Measuring academic achievement is important and necessary; no one is arguing otherwise. But if we fail to move beyond a narrow curriculum and accountability system, we will have failed to adequately prepare children for their futures.” (ASCD, 2012)
The Coeur d’Alene School District believes that for students to learn and grow, they must feel safe and for adults to teach and nurture, they must feel safe. Our first and foremost goal is to create a Culture of Safety where everyone feels safe and supported which sets the table for deep learning and growth.
Whole Child Core Beliefs
We create a Culture of Safety: Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
We engage in Meaningful Relationships: Each student has a champion, a supportive and caring adult, and is connected to the school and broader community.
We value and nurture Physical Health: Each student enters school healthy and fed and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
We teach Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Characteristics and Skills: Each student has access to quality, personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
We grow the Whole Child: Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.
Whole Child Means Whole History
Students arrive to school on their first day full of excitement and with a lifetime of formative experiences. These experiences shape how a student views the world, relationships and their own safety. Child development includes the thousands of interactions with caregivers and the larger environment, influencing brain development and a student’s capacity to feel safe. Child development, therefore, requires a balance of nurture and structure and careful attention to the whole child in every environment. All children develop optimally when we engage the “whole child” and therefore we apply this framework to All Students in every classroom.
Despite a school’s excellent and proactive work to nurture the whole child, it will be common for children to utilize negative behaviors as an expression of or a coping skill for chronically and historically unmet needs. This can be disruptive and difficult to manage in the school setting. As such, traditional models of behavior modification and consequence structures that focus primarily on motivation and intellectual understanding and not the whole child are not effective strategies. Research shows that about 15-20% of students have exceptional needs and require additional, more intensive support to feels safe in the classroom and succeed academically. Often, these students have experienced complex developmental trauma and struggle to feel safe in any environment. An understanding of the effect of complex developmental trauma and how to support these students is imperative to being able to meet their unique needs and grown the whole child.
Whole Child Model
As a school system that recognizes the impact of complex developmental trauma and supports and develops the cognitive, emotional, relational and physical aspects of all students, the Coeur d’Alene School District has developed three whole child principles to grow and nurture students. These principles are embedded as the foundation of support and learning for all students. These whole child principles are Heart, Body and Mind.
Heart: Humans are first and foremost relational beings and the ability to be in relationship, to communicate need and to give and receive care is fundamental to success and happiness as an individual and a society. We proactively and purposely create relational schools through focus on adult and student attachment, mindful caregiving and engagement strategies.
Body: The body and mind are intricately connected and for full development, physical needs must be met and physical health must be achieved. We proactively and purposely create an environment that pays attention to sensory system development and sensory integration differences in each student with careful consideration of the physical environment, structure and predictability.
Mind: Developing the mind incorporates gaining academic knowledge as well as the skills necessary for being successful such as problem solving, planning and organization, self-awareness, and controlling emotions.
Our Mental Wellness team
Andi West and Keith Orchard joined Coeur d'Alene Public Schools in 2019 to oversee mental wellness support work in our schools. Andi is our new Mental Health Coordinator, and Keith is our Mental Health Specialist. Their positions were made possible thanks to increased funding from our two-year operating levy approved by voters in March 2019.
Andi and Keith are meeting with teachers and other staff in our schools to discuss our "whole student" approach to nurture and grow the cognitive, emotional, relational and physical being of each student. Andi also is focused on community engagement and collaboration with partner agencies and organizations. Strengthening these community connections will ensure we are able to provide wrap-around services for students who need that level of care.