Welcome to “Dannefer Diner” and to positive social interactions . . .
by Meta Newell West
|Mrs. Dannefer uses the white board in the Social Lab to demonstrate the correct placement of dinnerware and silverware for a special meal table setting.- photo by Meta West|
|A fifth-grader draws her customized table setting during a Social Lab class at Garfield Elementary. - photo by Meta West|
The Social Lab is in session Tuesday through Friday afternoon with each Garfield student receiving an hour’s worth of social instruction weekly. On two of those days, Allison Buechman assists Mrs. Dannefer in the lab. Their mission is to help students feel good when they do positive things and to realize there is always a positive way to do everything.
Inspiration for the table setting lesson came from an etiquette-based curriculum guide but the instructors had to adapt it to fit their situation. For example, it would have been impossible to use real dishes and silverware or even paper plates and plastic silverware when dealing with 225 students, especially since there is just minutes between one class leaving and another arriving. “Besides, can you imagine how many germs would be passed if students had to share those materials?” Mrs. Buechman pointed out.
This project got started because Garfield teachers and Principal Dallas Meneley noticed a real need to expand student’s knowledge of proper etiquette. What started out as a dream became a reality as District 435 decided to implement a K-12 Positive Action curriculum this school year. While other grade levels integrate age-based curriculum into current classroom settings, Garfield’s Social Lab gives fourth and fifth graders an in-depth opportunity to contemplate and role play those positive actions that society deems so important.
It was a proud moment for me to see one of my students go up to a speaker, shake his hand and look him in the eye as he said thank you,” Mrs. Dannefer said. She added, “During a session that dealt with integrity, students explored the importance of doing what they say they are going to do. Their homework was to send me a note via the iPad, explaining what chore they would be helping with at home.” Photos, taken with iPads, and notes from parents were used to document the results. According to both instructors they received positive comments from parents who even suggested more homework assignments.
Positive actions covered in Social Lab also cross over to other classroom learning. After a session on the importance of saying thank you, students in Tech Lab were assigned to write personal letters and thank you notes. Mrs. Buechman, who also happens to be the Tech Lab instructor, noted, “The students started off thinking they’d write to celebrities or sports figures, but after some thought they are working on letters to teachers, family members and others who have made a personal difference in their lives.”
|Mrs. Buechman moves about the Social Lab as fifth grade students draw table settings.- photo by Meta West|
What started as a dream and a conversation among adults has turned into a worthwhile project that is teaching and enforcing positive action. And since dreams do sometimes comes true, Mrs. Dannefer has not stopped dreaming. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have an end-of-the-year banquet where students have the opportunity to practice everything they’ve learned all year long?”