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South Jordan Journal

Jordan Ridge students take on leadership roles in school action teams

Nov 27, 2019 08:24AM ● By Julie Slama

Jordan Ridge third grade teacher Kim Sanders supports students learning leadership skills through school teams that range from kindness action team to a recycling team. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Fourth grader Samantha Hansen teaches her peers, give examples and answer their questions instead of just hoping they learn while she does her own project.

As Jordan Ridge Elementary’s coding team president, she knows that by doing first things first, it will create a win-win for everyone.

“I think learning is more powerful than showing,” she said. “They might not remember something if I just do it. This way, it’s fun for them and fun for me. In the long run, they will learn and catch up to those with more advanced skills so we can do something together at the end of the year.”

Samantha is just one of several students learning leadership skills and responsibilities. The school recently unveiled action teams, ones designed for students to lead and be of service to each other, their school and community, said third grade teacher Kim Sanders.

“We asked ourselves ‘how can we build more leadership?’ and realized that there are leadership opportunities all around us, so we developed action teams,” Sanders said. “Kids are naturally good and want to help teach others and serve others. We’re seeing students stepping up, learning to be leaders and good team members, and that is unifying our school.”

The teams range from garden team, where they composted the school garden and planted daffodil and tulip bulbs, and a kindness action team, which created paper owls and had notes of encouragement and gratitude added as feathers to the birds, to the 25-member student leadership team, which leads school assemblies, to a recycling team, where students take turns to lead, she said.

“We have leadership within our choir, a lunch bunch that helps clean cafeteria tables, a lost and found team that folds items found and displays them to all kinds of teams that provide learning, fun and service,” Sanders said.

One popular team has been the bathroom action team, where students monitor the restrooms for cleanliness. If it’s kept tidy, they can update it with vinyl stickers as part of their efforts to upgrade or “remodel” them. They’ve talked about themes such as Marvel, “Star Wars,” tropical islands or even basketball, with painting the garbage as a standard and hoop, she said.

“We’ve told them it’s all in your cart, and they can vote on what they want to do,” Sanders said. “They’re learning ownership of shared space, and it’s exciting to see them realize they have control over what is happening in their bathrooms. This is an opportunity for the kids to take charge of their own learning and take care of their own spaces. They’re being leaders in so many ways, and it’s important that they are learning to demonstrate these skills.”

On a bulletin board near the cafeteria is a listing of the action teams, where anyone can be a part once an application is filed. Many of the teams are suggested by students and faculty and staff act as advisers.

Sixth grade teacher Frankie Walton said the action teams already have been beneficial.

“This gives a lot of kids the opportunity to show they can make a difference and take part of their school,” she said. “They’re learning it’s their school and they can be leaders in it.”

There also are leader boards being designed and updated in the front foyer of the school.

“We are learners who lead,” Principal Melissa Beck said. “We are encouraging students to become leaders and want to help them succeed and celebrate their learning.”

The action team members may arrive to school in the wee hours to put up the school flag or lead safety patrol, remain behind after lunch recess to ensure the playground equipment is put away or stay after school for interests such as drama, robotics and coding.

Sanders said Samantha is learning how to be in front of people and explain procedures. She’s also learning to plan their activities, manage the group and be responsible. 

“She’s so gifted and is sharing her passion with others so they can learn and excel at it as well,” Sanders said. “It’s a student-driven club.”

Samantha said it began when her father, Chris, came and taught her class about coding last year. Since then, he takes on teaching the students with coding and programming experience, while Samantha introduces concepts such as variables and animating to beginners.

“It’s important that we know enough programming for our future jobs,” Samantha said. “I like doing it, and it’s fun to have a club with peers who have similar interests.”