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Abrams Works to Improve School Culture, Behavior and Academic Performance by Capturing Kids' Hearts

Mrs. Perez-Burney greets her students in the morning. Abrams Elementary was one of two schools in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 selected to implement the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program school-wide. The school began full implementation for the 2016-2017 school year, after training almost all of the staff were trained in May 2016. Implementation of this program was made possible as part of the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant the district has received.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts shows schools how to create high-achieving centers of learning by strengthening students’ feeling of connection to each other and the school staff through enhancing healthy bonds with their teachers and establishing collaborative agreements of acceptable behavior.

At Abrams, this program is making students feel the responsibility for their own behavior. The school has seen a drop in behavior-related referrals this year as compared to the same time last school year. Each classroom has written a social contract, written by the students and in a language they understand. The staff also have a social contract that they have all agreed to. Each student is greeted each day with a handshake and eye contact by at least one staff member, if not more. “They are learning real world skills through this program: good communication techniques, how to make eye contact and shake hands appropriately, and how to apologize in a productive way,” said Abrams teacher Yuki Martinez.

Aside from handshakes and greetings, two other main components of the program center around sharing good things and affirmations. One teacher noted that she has a student who is bursting to share her good things every Monday, as if she has bottled them up over the weekend just to bring to school to share with her peers. Teachers are also seeing students have the academic confidence to solve a math problem, for example, thanks to the affirmations they know they might receive after accomplishing the challenge.

Abrams staff are observing the community grow together through the course of this first-year of implementation. “Students are taking ownership of their behavior and offering to help each other more. And, as a staff, we have common language to talk to all of them about what’s expected of their behavior at school,” said Abrams teacher Leah Johnson. 

The next step for Abrams is to focus on getting parents more involved and living out the effort of making connections among parents and staff. They also know that they’ll need to train new staff each year, so that they maintain involvement among 100% of their staff. The ultimate goal for the Abrams staff is to become a National Showcase School. If selected, Abrams would serve as a visitation site for other schools in the beginning stages of the program and would also be featured on the Capturing Kids' Hearts website.