"I like going off campus,” said Wesley Deyoe, a student in Donna Butcher's class at the Washington Street Teaching and Learning Center (WSTLC) in Fort Edward.
The off-campus activity is a monthly field trip to the Fort Hudson Nursing Center just a short distance away. For five years, the students have been visiting residents diagnosed with dementia.
“It’s such a positive experience for the students” said Fort Hudson Nursing Center Activity Director Daniele Fish. “It helps them to be able to communicate in a different way and not be afraid of the aging process or someone in a wheel chair.” Ms. Fish, along with her aide, choose the different activities that the students and seniors will participate in during their visit. “Whether it’s tossing a ball or playing kick ball, the seniors love it! They love being with the younger generation and interacting with them. It benefits both the seniors and the students.”
“It’s a great opportunity for our students to give back to our senior citizens by spending quality time with them,” added Debra Grobe- Searles, the teacher at Washington Street TLC who volunteered to facilitate the monthly field trips to the center. “The students enjoy meeting with the senior citizens and it’s an earned privilege. Our students have chosen to spend their Boys Town activity points to go.”
It’s 10,000 points to visit the Nursing Center. Earned activity points are a part of the Boys Town Specialized Classroom Management System used at Washington Street TLC, which is one of four Therapeutic Support Programs (TSP) at WSWHE BOCES. TSP is a blend of behavioral health interventions combined with special education instruction for students K-12.
Washington Street teaches students at the middle school level, grades 6 to 8. Principal Elizabeth McGraw, explained, “Boys Town is an external motivational system based on teaching social skills to students. At this level and we consider the social skills curriculum to be as important as the academic curriculum. Students need to have appropriate social skills to be successful in life. Through Boys Town motivational curriculum students learn that they have control of how their day goes.”
A data-driven model that documents behavior, Boys Town features 16 social skills that students strive for within three levels: daily, progress and merit. At every step of the way, students earn points for their positive behavior and receive negative points for poor behavior choices.
“Therefore, if students have a bad day they lose their purchasing power for that day. That’s a big motivator for this age group,” said Ms. McGraw.
Stacey Shewell, a teaching assistant at the school also runs the school store. “I keep it well stocked with age-appropriate items,” she said. “The hot items for boys right now are baseball hats; Giants, Mets, Knicks. For girls, it’s make up and perfume. Students are excited to spend their hard-earned points on a pencil.”
“Boys Town works well here,” said Ms. McGraw. “The data tracks our students’ progress. Office referrals and suspensions have declined. And, parents report that they like that their kids are successful in school. Students who have earned the merit level have a sense of pride in their accomplishment and enjoy the privileges and the freedom they earn as a Merit student.
“Students have more autonomy at the top level. They are able to walk by themselves throughout the building, get special privileges in the classrooms and, of course, they can choose to spend their points to visit the Fort Hudson Nursing Center residents.”