At one school, third-graders act as mentors for kindergarten buddies on the playground. At another, a yearly theme this year it's compassion is incorporated into all school activities.
The two programs were among those from local schools that received J. Russell Kent awards for innovation from the San Mateo County School Boards Association.
Las Lomitas, Oak Knoll and Ormondale schools, plus the Portola Valley School District, were honored on May 11.
At Ormondale School, the winning program is an annual farmers' market, put on by second-graders who raise money to support their own school garden and community gardens in needy neighborhoods. Students say they enjoy exploring the garden and taking care of it. This year's market is scheduled for Friday, May 29, starting at 4 p.m. at the school, 200 Shawnee Pass in Portola Valley.
At Oak Knoll, the winning program is an effort to observe an annual theme. For example, this year the entire kindergarten-to-fifth-grade school is focusing on "compassion." Books, assemblies and speakers reinforce the theme. Students do projects such as the recent campaign to raise money to pay for a water pump for an African village.
At Las Lomitas, faced with ballooning enrollment, the school trained third-graders to organize games and teach skills to kindergarten students. The older students get the opportunity to mentor younger students while providing help with playground supervision.
The Portola Valley School District won for the social-emotional leaning program it has used for the past seven years to promote a healthy, caring school environment. The program includes such things as character awards, special lunch programs, flex scheduling and a Climate Committee at each school. The district emphasizes connecting students with more adults during each school day.
Minoo Shah, director of school services for the Portola Valley district, said that "social-emotional learning creates empathy among students for peers with differences and has also shown a positive impact on academic performances on the entirety of the school climate and culture."
The Kent awards have been given annually since 1980. This year 16 Kent awards were given to San Mateo County schools.