Larkspur’s HEART focuses on the whole child
LARKSPUR - It’s natural for children to wonder about the world around them. For the last few years, teachers at Larkspur Elementary School have taken advantage of the rural setting that surrounds their school, rich with flora and fauna, a tight-knit community, and a ton of opportunities for little ones to explore and learn, by integrating this into their classroom teachings.
Studying and engaging in projects like this around the environment, sustainability and the impact that each individual has on one another and the community are all at the core of HEART, a new philosophy for learning, behaving and interacting at Larkspur Elementary.
HEART outlines the tenets of the school’s values: healthy living, environment (schoolyard habitat, water, waste, energy and climate), academics, research, and TRACKS— the school’s signature program for positive behavior support.
“During the 13-14 school year, Larkspur chose to focus on EIC, which is Environment as an Integrated Context. Our current community felt we could expand on this vision to create a greater impact. Our new vision allows us to develop the whole child at such a crucial stage in their development,” explained Larkspur’s principal, Jen Oldham.
This new vision was kicked off last week at a school-wide assembly, in which students from all grade levels, K through 6, had the opportunity to present each facet of HEART to parents and community members.
The school’s “Green Team” talked about how they’ve worked to promote the reduction of energy use throughout the school, implementing a points system for classrooms to ensure lights are turned off when classrooms are not actively being used. In the spirit of the school’s philosophy of learning beyond the school’s walls, the students will even work on projects to increase awareness in the community of Larkspur on energy savings. All classrooms are encouraged to brainstorm ideas, and these ideas will then be displayed on walls throughout the school to keep the efforts present for each individual.
With these and other initiatives, Oldham takes pride in how the school’s students rise to the challenge of taking on leadership roles.
“We want to ensure young people have the power to be the change for sustainability that our world needs by engaging in fun, action-oriented and responsible learning,” said Oldham. “It is our hope that they will carry this with them for years to come.”
Students also presented how they are learning to make healthy decisions, such as working with staff from the nearby Stone Canyon Outdoor EdVentures to prepare healthy plates, and creating games they can play with their friends to spread their learning to others.
“We continually focus on the meaning of being healthy in and outside of our school,” Oldham said. “We teach our students to be mindful of themselves, their surroundings and the impact they have on those around them. This includes their physical and mental wellness to establish a healthy sense of self.”
Additionally, students and faculty have partnered with the Larkspur Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Larkspur to begin planning a trail system to connect the school to the local park and open space so that they can expand their research of the natural systems around the school.
“We are fortunate to live in a state with many different environments, habitats and eco zones. We continually provide educational field trips that allow our students to experience their environmental learning on and off campus,” Oldham said.
The event culminated with students enthusiastically presenting TRACKS, which stands for truthful, respectful, accountable, collaborative, kind and safe. Oldham explained that this signature program is at the center of everything they do.
“We understand that relationships play just as important of a part of our education as our curriculum,” Oldham said. “All our conversations center around TRACKS to ensure we are learning from our mistakes and can move forward towards developing the whole child.”