When the pandemic hit last year and school buildings were shut down, the staff at Lowell Elementary in Seattle quickly saw the disproportionate impact remote learning was having on many of their students of color and those without stable housing. While some students in their school had the technology and support from their caregivers to transition to remote learning, many could not.
Lowell Elementary staff responded to this inequity by creating an Educational Enhancement Site, a physical space where students get free access to in-person adult support, tutoring, meals, recreation, and reliable internet. At the same time, students engage with their Lowell classmates and educators online. Dustin Cross, Lowell’s Levy Coordinator and PBIS Coach, led the effort to create this facility for students by working with local churches and community partners to secure funding, transportation, food, and staff. This educational enhancement site is hosted at 415 Westlake, an event space in Seattle’s South Lake Union area.
This February, Sound Discipline, along with University Tutors, facilitated an online workshop for the enhancement site staff, Maki Smith and D.J. Williams, and their volunteer team. We had the pleasure of supporting the team to connect and create a shared vision for the space before it opened to students. The staff brainstormed ideas for community building, regulation, and routines with consideration for how students would also have voice and agency in this new learning environment. Some creative ideas the 415 Westlake Project team came up with were:
- Open each day with an activity that incorporates movement
- Display a picture chart that shows three safe ways for students to greet one another from 6 feet apart (a salute, a high-five where you hit your forearm to make the slap sound, or a dance)
- Provide supplies for students to decorate their desk space, including name tags
- Find opportunities throughout the day to incorporate collective breath work to help everyone stay regulated
In April, Dustin shared, “Since launching the 415 Westlake Project, our percentage of students who are chronically absent and our percentage of historically underserved students of color who are chronically absent has decreased by 20%.”
Having the enhancement site means that many more students were able to access the powerful social emotional and academic learning provided by the outstanding teachers at Lowell Elementary. We’re inspired by the 415 Westlake Project team and partners for facilitating this vital support.