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Calling All Parents! Help Us Teach Your Children Twelve Tools for Success
Posted 2/11/22

School is critical for student learning and social-emotional health. COVID-19, along with distance learning, reaffirmed this reality. Our own NVUSD community was no exception, as our staff discovered while analyzing the results from our annual survey of students' social and emotional health.  


Teaching and incorporating social-emotional skills was already a priority of the district – and we have several programs already in place. Second Step is well established at both elementary and middle schools across the district, as is a student behavior system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). After reading the survey results last year, Sarah Knox, Director of Prevention and Intervention, knew our students would also “benefit from a tool that unified these programs and systems holistically.” 


Welcoming the Toolbox Project to NVUSD

The Toolbox Project, a program developed by a former school counselor, Mark Collins, in Sonoma County, was a perfect fit for our elementary students. It playfully uses the idea of a toolbox to help kids learn 12 social and emotional tools when they encounter difficult situations. 


According to Whitney Westbrook, the Toolbox Project certified trainer and Donaldson Way Elementary School 2nd/3rd-grade teacher, all elementary schools kicked off the year by giving all teachers and kids an introduction to each of the 12 tools. Students received their own toolbox, where they then colored each tool, practiced the chants for each tool, and even created class agreements.  


Teachers also use community circles to build student relationships and give students the opportunity to share how they use the tools. In December, Paige Pleasant sat in a circle with her 2nd-grade students at Phillips Magnet Elementary School and asked each student to share their favorite tool. The most popular tool was the breathing tool, an imaginary measuring tape that students pull out as they breathe in and out saying “I calm myself and check-in.” Another popular tool was the garbage can–a tool to help them remember to “let the little things go.” Most students talked about using both of these tools at home, especially with their siblings. At school, a popular example was the garbage can tool out on the playground. 


Student review the 12 Project Toolbox Tools


Teachers are also doing a deeper dive into each tool throughout the year–see the schedule here. In January, 2nd-grade students at Donaldson Way reviewed each of their tools with Mrs. Hattich and Mrs. Faris. They took out their toolbox, acted out the movement of each, and chanted the tools tagline. Often, this elicited student questions like, “how do I ask someone to stay out of my personal space?” This then allowed for a deeper dive into the “Using Our Words” tool. 


Student practice the 12 Project Toolbox Tools


Lessons From School to Home 

The Toolbox Project was started in every elementary school across the district this fall. So, be on the watch for your children using these tools at home. We also invite you to partner with us in helping your child to use each of these tools at home. Please download the poster pictured above and put it somewhere visible in your home.

If downloading a copy isn’t convenient, pick up a copy at your child’s school. At Phillip’s Magnet Elementary, principal Julie Jones makes the posters available in the Family Resource Center (FRC).

Principal Jones is also working on providing opportunities for her parents to learn more. Project Toolbox was the topic at one of her Parent University sessions in December. She noted that as parents were introduced to the tools they were realizing, “oh, that is what my child was doing.” 

Now that you know about the tools your child is practicing in the classroom, we hope you will start to make connections at home. If you are interested in learning more, you can attend a Project Toolbox parent learning session on Tuesday, March 1st at 5:30 pm. Find the Zoom link and much more in our Parent Learning Series calendar. Another great way to learn more is to talk about the tools with your child. We suggest following Mrs. Pleasant’s example, showing them the poster, and asking them to tell you about the tools they like to use.