Encinal Elementary School's Advisory Program
Student teams in Advisory lead creative projects to improve their school community. They learn leadership, empathy and responsibility.
About Your Organization
Encinal Elementary School
United States, CA, Atherton, San Mateo County
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, CA, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto & Atherton, San Mateo County
Is your organization a
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..
Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Established (past the previous stages and has demonstrated success)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
Teachers in the upper grades of Encinal Elementary School are dedicated to educating students to become 21st century learners and leaders in an increasingly global society that will require rapid adaptation to new circumstances and cultures. The existing curriculum is centered on teacher-led classroom learning and leaves no opportunity for growing essential qualities of creative thinking, personal and social responsibility and leadership. And with half the upper grade cohort new to the school, how do teachers make students comfortable with their new peers and adult teachers so that innovative learning can succeed?
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
The teachers of Encinal School are leading the change they want to see in the school’s curriculum, and created Encinal's Advisory Program: teams of 9 to 11 year olds in the upper grades engaging in student-led, problem-based learning projects aimed at improving their school community.
Success is defined as:
• fostering community with meaningful connections among students and staff members
• providing each student with an opportunity to feel a sense of purpose and empowerment, develop leadership skills and engage in meaningful work to improve our community
• encouraging innovative, creative thinking and the development of problem-solving skills in a motivating authentic context
• giving students an opportunity to reflect on their learning and practice communication skills
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Advisory is a weekly period when fourth and fifth graders work in teams to identify, design and execute a service-oriented project in their team’s interest area; “Carpentry,” “Music Creation,” “Creative Play” or “Accepting Our Differences.”
To start, team-building activities foster communication, trust and connectedness. Then students are challenged to research and define a facet of the school community they would like to improve, such as bullying, isolation or disconnectedness. Next, student teams create and implement a project and analyze its impact. In the spring, Advisory teams present their findings to peers.
In its second year, Advisory has created friendships between older and younger students, pride of accomplishment for students with academic difficulty, student satisfaction in deciding and leading projects and new student- teacher connections.
• “Our Advisory team [‘Accepting Our Differences’] helps with the special needs students in our school. I’ve become friends with them and with the others who work with me.” – Katrina, age 11
• “Advisory is an amazing opportunity for kids to be leaders and build relationships with older and younger kids. My Advisory, ‘Creative Play’, is especially fun because we get to decide what we want to do and we get to lead.” –Megan, age 11
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Encinal School's “home-grown” Advisory Program is integrated into the upper grade curriculum, and tailored to the school’s culture and community. Students identify and create their projects, and that ensures a motivating and authentic context for their work. A program developed elsewhere would fit less perfectly and require a long adoption and buy-in cycle to succeed.
Other groups working toward the same goals pose no challenge to us because they are not competitors but collaborators. Their success bolsters us, and we welcome fellow teachers to observe, critique and adopt Advisory in the way that works in their communities.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Student teams in Advisory lead creative projects to improve their school community. They learn leadership, empathy & responsibility.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Teachers created Advisory for student project teams to exit classrooms and make connections & solve problems with creativity & inquiry.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
350 students participate in Advisory -- all the upper grade students at Encinal Elementary School. They are a mix from two different schools. Teaming with students who share a passion has built new friendships. The students who struggle in the classroom can shine in Advisory and build trust with their Advisory teacher/facilitator, so they enjoy success and trust. The Advisory focus on service has created empathy. One teacher describes her Advisory, “Accepting Our Differences:" "We focus on our Learning Center community and beyond. Some students are from my homeroom but the rest are other fourth and fifth graders. First we learned it takes hard work and courage to rise above challenges that many of us face. The students wanted to understand the differences of our Learning Center students and to help them so now they have lunch there and helped Special Olympics. They are spectacular and friendships have grown. An Advisory student felt connected and shared his autism for the first time.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We plan continuous improvement to the Advisory program with a cycle of inquiry and review. The objective is to ensure that the learning and growth of students and teacher/facilitators is relevant, long-lasting and reflected in improved school climate. We plan to search for positive impact on classroom experience that might extend to improved academic involvement and outcomes. We plan to share the Advisory model elsewhere in the school district and with any interested educators so that more students may participate. Each school's culture and climate are unique and we would not expect to see Advisory copied elsewhere. Rather, we would be inspired by similar programs that are meaningful and passionate within each school's context.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
A barrier to our success would be continued dwindling of school funding in California. If teachers, staff and district leadership teams are forced to manage budget cuts over and over again they will lose the passion and openness Advisory requires for success. It will be hard for educators to grow a new program -- even one that requires no new budgeting -- when layoffs loom. We only have control over our own actions so we will commit to continuing and extending Advisory by entering it in contests such as this one or applicable grant programs to ensure Advisory's visibility, impact and continuation.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Evaluate and improve Advisory: grow connectedness, sense of social responsibility, student leadership & teamwork
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Students complete the 2011-2012 Advisory. Teams complete their projects, reflect on their learning and report results to peers.
Student survey examines connectedness to friends and teachers, happiness in class and on playground, resolution of conflict. Par
Teachers study the impact of Advisory since 2010. They evaluate successes and challenges and made decisions for improving Adviso
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Introduce the Advisory model elsewhere in the school district: program, benefits, metrics, results
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Undertake Advisory for 2012-2013 with improvements identified in evaluation process and invite observers from other schools
Create and track more metrics of Advisory’s impact to share elsewhere - perhaps a student Advisory team will create them?
Share input & observations with fellow educators who share a passion for the goals and approaches used in Advisory
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
Advisory emerged from the teacher/staff strategic planning process at Encinal. They envisioned an education that fosters global awareness, critical and innovative thinking, and personal and social responsibility. They planned for their students to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become well-prepared and active citizens of a global society. The book-centered curriculum did not offer opportunities for students to lead, work collaboratively, solve problems creatively or grow their sense of personal and social responsibility. Also, half the upper grade students arrived at Encinal from a different school and lacked familiarity and connectedness.
To address these concerns, teachers decided to engender new friendships and grow creative problem solving and leadership by creating a weekly period for student-led problem solving with teams assembled around a shared interest.
Tell us about your partnerships
No partnerships at this time.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
The teachers employed at Encinal Elementary School implement Advisory as part of their curriculum, and their participation is what makes Advisory happen. They have established a culture of change leadership that is essential to the continuation of the Advisory. Advisory will grow and change as it continues to meet the educational and developmental goals that the teachers at Encinal have for their students.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
None at this time. We look forward to discovering ways to share and learn.