Students from P.S. 114 Ryder Elementary School marched in the school’s second annual Emoji Parade on Thursday, June 1st, while waving handmade emojis on paper plates that depicted their feelings. The event took place in the schoolyard, at 1077 Remsen Avenue, and was the finale to a jam-packed week of activities, known as Spirit Week.
Principal Latina Tention and educators at P.S. 114 are proud of their involvement in the Restorative Justice (RJ) initiative, a program that started at the Canarsie school during the 2020-2021 school year, which teaches students to express their feelings and learn how to deal with them in a positive way. The initiative promotes a safe and supportive school environment by promoting kindness and utilizing RJ techniques to de-escalate negative behaviors and reactions when students are experiencing any type of tension or negative thoughts.
Teacher Fran Cohen, one of the seven RJ team members, told the Canarsie Courier, “The RJ activities that we do promote kindness schoolwide; it’s not just for the students but for the staff and the parents as well. The emojis show their emotions and feelings; that’s what RJ promotes – being able to tell what you are feeling and then we, the RJ team, give the teacher and students the strategies to cope with their emotions, whether they are sad, embarrassed or hurt.”
Spirit Week kicked off on Tuesday with a showing of the Disney movie, Inside Out, a film that encourages the full spectrum of emotions as an essential part of life. Following the movie, kids started working on their “feeling emojis” for the upcoming parade.
Wednesday was “School Spirit Letter Day.” Each class was given a letter and instructed to wear something representing that letter and to create a banner using the letter. As an example, one class was given the letter “R” and they focused on the word “Respect.” Once the banners were completed, the kids participated in a parade.
As part of the RJ curriculum, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons are taught every Friday, including mindfulness, breathing and coping skills. These techniques can help prevent negative interactions from occurring.
RJ team coordinator Lauryn Arena and RJ team member Rachel Porcellio have seen the difference. They told the Canarsie Courier that the coping methods are working; there are less discipline problems with the students and more positivity and kindness. And, students are rewarded for their kindness. They have punch cards and when they do something good (based on things like behavior and homework), they can get their cards punched up to three times per week. Once they receive 20 punches, they are rewarded with either a field trip or an activity in the building, like a skate party or a bowling event.
One goal of the RJ team is to transform a classroom into a mindful room which will be called “Chillville.” The room, which should be finished by September, will have sensory bulletin boards, toys and games, along with bean bags and large pillows, all in a calming and soothing environment.
Photos courtesy of P.S. 114