Many things were the same at Sinaloa Middle School’s first day last Tuesday.
Parents navigated a crowded parking lot when dropping their kids off at school.
Teachers welcomed in new students to their classrooms.
And lessons were taught.
But not quite the same lessons as other schools dive into on the first day. At Sinaloa, for the second year, CHAMPS was the curriculum for the first day, and the rest of that week, for students.
“I wanted every kid to go home with the same first day of school experience,” said Assistant Principal Shanda Weaver.
CHAMPS is an educational program that teaches students how to be successful in school. The acronym CHAMPS stands for: Conversation, Help, Activity, Movement, Participation and Success.
CHAMPS is used in in all three Simi Valley middle schools, but how Sinaloa implements it is different. During the school’s first week–four days–the teachers teach CHAMPS. Each period, every grade receives the same lesson based on the CHAMPS curriculum. Students learned about study skills, school rules and what resources are available to help them with academics and other issues. All of this is done through guided exercises and games.
One example is the ice-breaker where students drew a colored stick from a bag and answer a specific question. Purple asks about your passions. Green is for your best character trait. Orange is your best book and so on.
Students were also taught the Sinaloa SABER Code. SABER stands for: Start each day with a positive attitude, Achieve, Believe, Endure, Respect and Succeed. And then there was THINK before you speak, where students are encouraged to build others up with their words, which should be Truthful, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind.
At the end of each day, an all-school rally was held where fun team-building games and events where hosted. On the first day, students and staff divided into teams and representatives came to the stage where they held a race to see who could empty a box of tissues, with only one hand, first. Then Principal Diana Janke was “anointed” as a champ herself, with a bucket of water.
Janke said that every year, almost two-thirds of her students are new to Sinaloa, which has 6th, 7th and 8th grades. She said that while teachers last year weren’t so sure about the change in what they normally handle during the first week, that she believes having the students really understand what’s expected of them, and also understanding the structure of the school, helped.
“It did make a difference,” she said. “Our suspension rates were down, a lot.”
She’s not sure if there is a direct measurable connection between using CHAMPS and the suspension rates, but she believes the students felt more focused and connected to their school.