Just before the school year began, fifth-graders at Oakstead Elementary School took some training on how to be school leaders.
Teachers, administrators and support staff organized an “Oakstead Elementary Leadership Retreat” which was held on Aug. 4. This is the second year in a row that the school has had the half-day retreat.
Throughout the morning, fifth-graders took part in several team-building activities, which included analyzing leadership personality traits along the way.
They also learned about many qualities that it takes to become a leader — open-mindedness, integrity, authenticity, generosity and responsibility.
“Our big focus is to make them think more like, ‘Hey, I’m the leader, I’m setting the example,’ instead of ‘I’m done with this place,’” explained Sandra Stine, an assistant principal at Oakstead. By the time they reach fifth grade, she explained, some students are anxious to begin middle school.
After last year’s retreat, Stine noted, many fifth-graders were “more excited” heading into the school year. The school dished out less discipline, too, she added.
Based on feedback from last year’s retreat, Oakstead administrators shortened this year’s retreat to five hours and incorporated more collaborative activities.
The goal was to cut down on tedious paperwork for the students and to add more cooperative games.
One game, called the “Balloon Train,” required small groups of fifth-graders to imagine themselves as a locomotive connected by balloons. Each group had to line up single file and reach a finish line with balloons linked to one another — without the use of their hands.
The activity aimed to underscore the importance of teamwork and communication in accomplishing a goal.
“We brought in even more interaction — get them up and get them moving with a lot more activities,” Stine said.
Bullying prevention was added to this year’s retreat agenda — emphasizing the importance for fifth-graders to stand up for other students, especially younger children, in kindergarten through fourth grade.
“(Fifth-graders) can be the ones where they see bullying happen, they can intervene and stop,” said Oakstead principal Tammy Kimpland. “As leaders, when you see something going on that’s not supposed to be going on, you have the power to say, ‘Hey, quit picking on that kid.’”
Kristen Hirsbrunner, a fifth-grade teacher at Oakstead, said having leadership retreats reinforces positive attitudes in the school’s eldest students.
“It’s so important,” Hirsbrunner said, “because our fifth-graders come in, at times, thinking they’re the big man on campus. They still are, but they’re taking a different role with that…to truly be that role model for the younger kids and each other.”
She added: “I think these kids, too, having seen what the kids last year were able to do, came in a little bit more excited about being a leader and what it means to be a leader.”
Fifth-grader Charlie Newport said the retreat gave him a greater understanding of the importance of teamwork and collaboration.
“It was really great,” he said. “I was able to work more with people I normally wouldn’t be able to…because they’re not in my class.”
Throughout the school year, every fifth-grade student will be assigned to an adult in the building for leadership support throughout the year.
On Fridays, students will wear a “Pay It Forward” T-shirt to remind them to be responsible leader.
The school is also working to get a grant approved to purchase copies of the book, “Pay It Forward,” by Catherine Ryan Hyde to give to each fifth-grade student.
There are about 180 fifth-graders among the school’s total enrollment which surpasses 1,100, the principal said.
Published August 17, 2016