Children from preschool through Grade 6 throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin are getting a great head start through the Positive Action program, developing skills to help them deal with every day hurdles in the most positive way possible.
Positive Action was put into place by Communities That Care, a collaborative community table made up of groups such as the City of Williams Lake, Boys and Girls Club, Cariboo Friendship Society, Child Development Centre, Cariboo Chilcotin Canadian Mental Health Association, School District 27, Williams Lake Indian Band and Denisiqi Services.
Communities That Care facilitator Carla Bullinger said the program was launched with a scientific survey with youth in grades 7-12 in 2009.
“Kids here were asked to identify their risk factors and their protective factors. The survey looked at school, family, community and peer domains,” she explained.
“We looked into programs to help reduce the risks that were identified, and the group chose Positive Action.”
Positive Action began in 2010 with four pilot schools: Nesika, Cataline, and Marie Sharpe Elementary Schools and Anahim Lake Elementary Junior Secondary School.
Since then, according to Bullinger, other district and band schools have implemented the program, and it has expanded to preschools, Strong Start and Head Start programs, Boys and Girls Club after school programs and Early Childhood Education classes.
Theresa Herrling, who teaches Kindergarten/Grade 1 at Mountview Elementary School says that the program lays an important foundation for kids and has a positive influence on her students.
“It addresses things like bullying and how to get along with others,” Herrling says, adding that the Positive Action kit comes with everything you need, such as stories, activities, puppets, crafts, activities and poems.
“It teaches kids things like self-concept and feeling good about themselves; we talk about how every child is different and encourage them to think positive,” she explains. “We learn words like ‘unique’ and ‘curious,’ ‘creative’ and ‘wellness’ and concepts like self-awareness.”
Bullinger said that last year Communities That Care got funding from Success by 6 in Williams Lake and purchased pre-Kindergarten Positive Action kits and did some training for Head Start programs.
“The earlier we start the better, and this program ensures that we’re all using the same language and talking about it every day. It’s a school-wide approach; all the lessons and the word of the week build common knowledge, skills and communication,” Herrling says.
“The underlying philosophy is when you think positive thoughts you do positive actions and then you feel good about yourself. We’re helping kids build those skills and flip things to the positive – using ‘positive’ to manage feelings of anger and jealousy. There is no denying that those feelings exist; the question is what skills we can develop to deal with them,” she says.
“This is emotional literacy, and it’s becoming more and more widespread.”
She says the program encourages kids to talk about how an action can make someone feel sad and what they can do about it.
“These concepts have become a part of everyday conversation and actions in our class.,” Herrling continues. “I tell them a little scenario and they tell me how the person in the scene would feel and they tell me how they would feel.”
“We talk about someone by themselves on the playground who may not know how to ask, ‘Can I play with you?’
“In our classroom when someone asks if they can play, we always say, ‘Of course you can’ because we may not know how that person is feeling today.’”