- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
CCSD schools highlight trauma-informed practices at showcase
Members of the Cherry Creek Schools community gathered earlier this month to celebrate ways that students are receiving support from staff and community members in the Cherry Creek School District.
From mentorship programs, poetry lessons, and newcomer spaces, schools were able to showcase their work at an event on May 5 hosted by Polton Elementary. This work came about because of a grant from Kaiser Permanente and is a partnership with the non-profit Resilient Futures.
The event was an immersive experience for guests, allowing them to experience a day in the life of a Polton student. From the time guests arrived and were welcomed by staff to having breakfast in the classroom to a morning ‘den circle’ and morning affirmation, guests were treated to the positive community culture that Polton and other schools have worked to build.
“A trauma-informed approach is a schoolwide approach,” shared Lauren Ross, mental health coordinator for the district. “It’s about creating predictability, building relationships and moving away from punitive practices like suspension to more restorative practices that emphasize rebuilding relationships.”
“All students benefit from trauma-informed practices,” added Dr. Megan Brennan, co-founder of Resilient Futures. “When students are learning social-emotional skills and have at least one positive relationship with an adult at school, we see a significant impact on their academic achievement, engagement, and overall well-being."
The schools participating in this program use a framework called HEARTS, which is rooted in racial equity work and aligned with the district’s core values. HEARTS stands for Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools.
“The amazing part about helping to lead the work of HEARTS implementation has been watching how the Resilient Futures team partners with every school in a very differentiated way,” Ross added. “The framework is the same, but the practices that buildings put in place look different based on the needs of their student population and they’re unique.”
The second part of the program shared some of the overarching work to build understanding about what trauma informed practices are and highlighting the work from multiple schools. Prairie Middle School, which has a strong newcomer program to welcome new students who are from other countries and don’t speak English, highlighted the ways that they create spaces of support, belonging, and predictability. The Adaptive Programs focused on increasing staff wellness and voice by creating five committees on topics ranging from wellness to experiential learning to restorative practices. By fostering staff involvement and collaboration, staff at the Adaptive programs are empowered to have a voice and role in creating the culture and climate of each of those programs.
Independence Elementary recognized that their focus of the year was to create spaces of belonging for students and staff of all identities and brought in Aurora Poet Laureate Ahja Fox to create “I Am” poems. Ponderosa Elementary recognized that they had a high disproportionality of discipline of students of color and created a mentoring program that has grown over the past few years to connect teachers and community members with students that have high social-emotional needs.
“We see an incredibly strong correlation between building these strong relationships among students and trusted adults,” Ross explained. “Schools have seen significant results in the level of student engagement, the wellness of staff, and the community connection of schools being seen as safe spaces for everyone in the community.”