Self-esteem, bullying, anger management – those may be difficult issues for anyone but especially for elementary school children.
Three years ago, guidance counselor Kristen Johnson decided to tackle those concerns with a “Bucket Filling Program,” based on a series of books for children by Carol McCloud. Brookview Elementary School Principal Tracy Schneid describes the books as “guides for daily happiness for kids. The goal is to fill another person’s ‘bucket’ and then your ‘bucket’ will be full, too.”
Filling a bucket means doing something positive, says Johnson. It could be as simple as smiling at a classmate as you walk down the hall or reading to a friend during lunch or recess.
Johnson began the program at Smith School and then transferred it to Grindstone Elementary School when that building opened in 2011. Schneid imported the Bucket philosophy to Brookview that same year as “Growing Up With a Bucket Full of Happiness.”
Both schools’ programs are funded in part by Education Foundation grants. Brookview received Enrichment Grants of $5,000 in 2012 and $4,000 in 2011. Grindstone was given an Employee Payroll Deduction Grant of $840 in 2012. For the 2013-14 school year, Brook Park Memorial School will receive a Payroll Deduction Grant to begin the program there.
“We absolutely couldn’t do this without The Education Foundation funding,” Schneid said.
The program was so successful at Brookview that first year, that Schneid expanded it to include faculty and staff. Two teachers had their 2nd-grade students create a craft and then deliver them to local nursing homes, for example. The program even went international. “One little girl collected money by selling fake moustaches and sent the funds to Africa for a clean water project,” Schneid said. Future plans call for a talent show and a play about a Bucket-Filling Fairy.
At Grindstone, Johnson had each child decorate a bucket – that added up to more than 900 plastic pails. The children filled the buckets with goodies and gave them away. One child filled the bucket with cat and dog treats and donated it to Berea’s Animal Rescue Friends shelter. Another child gave a candy-filled pail to his postal delivery person. Yet another bucket was planted with a flower and given to a neighbor. The Berea Division of Police got one filled with cookies. The students then wrote papers on to whom they donated the buckets and why.
Johnson says the program emphasizes the positive. “Each child likes to be a part of something,” she said. “We want to send positive messages.”
The children at both schools receive positive reinforcement for their good deeds. At Grindstone, students receive tickets. One is pulled at random every day. Prizes range from jump ropes to stress balls and pencils with the Grindstone logo. In the end, Johnson makes sure everyone gets a prize. At Brookview, students are rewarded for good behavior. Three good conduct reports earn them a T-shirt. Those students who fill their buckets receive a bright orange belt, which they can wear on the playground and in the cafeteria.
It has made an impact, said Schneid, “especially on younger children, and parents love it.”
Johnson said she hopes the lessons learned in elementary school stay with the students as they go on to intermediate school and junior high. “Bucket-filling is a pro-active program and it’s about discipline,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how it grows.”
-Linda G. Kramer