Start with Hello Week helps WSCD elementaries foster community and sense of belonging
For years, Westerville elementary counselors across the district have organized activities for Start with Hello Week. This year marks the first time they’ll be celebrating the national call-to-action week together.
They mapped out themes for an elementary-wide spirit week that fosters a sense of belonging and complements the activities they have organized for their own buildings.
“The elementary school counselors have been diligent in working collaboratively to bring consistency across all the elementary school buildings,” said Jessie Martin, the district’s director of Student Well-Being.
“Our goal is to continuously grow our capacity for every student to have similar school experiences regardless of what building they are in.”
Created by the Sandy Hook Promise organization, Start with Hello Week runs Sept. 18-22 and is focused on helping students build empathy, healthy relationships and social awareness through social-emotional lessons and activities.
Westerville’s elementary-wide spirit week themes include wearing neon colors or a shirt with positive messages to “brighten someone’s day” and wearing rainbow colors by grade level to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
From “Hello” walls to greet students to lunch table talks with conversation starters to promote positive conversations, school counselors have organized a variety of Start with Hello Week activities for their buildings.
Hanby and Emerson elementaries will kick off each morning with activities, challenges, greetings and inspiration videos. One of the presentations will highlight “trusted adults” — someone who students view as a reliable and caring source of support — with photos of staff members in the building.
They are also hosting a Glow in the Dark party to light up the school with kindness and a school-wide mural. Each class will also complete an Empathy Star throughout the week.
Also, the new members of Emerson’s Change Makers student equity team are planning activities inclusive to all students such as playing games with their younger peers during recess, chalk art with affirmation words and drawings and visiting classrooms to read to students.
The group is also organizing its “Little Hands Make a Big Difference” diverse hands project, a display of handprints of each Emerson student from paper of different skin tones. The school plans to celebrate International Peace Day by displaying student-created pinwheels on the front lawn.
Huber Ridge Elementary is launching its Morning Mile, Huber Style, a before-school club where students participate in outdoor activities. Educators wanted to host its kick-off gathering during Start with Hello Week as a way to highlight how joining a group can foster a strong sense of belonging, help students form new relationships, live a healthy lifestyle and find new ways to regulate their bodies for a successful day, Huber Ridge counselor Amy Van Sickle said.
At Robert Frost, student ambassadors will create Promise Trees with rainbow-printed hands.
Hawthorne Elementary is wrapping up the week with its first all-school Kindness Council event, a monthly event where classes from different grade levels partner together on community building activities and service projects.
Each year, thousands of schools and youth organizations nationwide participate in Start with Hello Week, which is dedicated to making new social connections and creating a sense of belonging among youth.