The Central New York Community Foundation recently awarded a $24,000 grant to the Positivity Project to expand it’s character education training programs in the Syracuse City School District. The goal of the program, which is in 44 schools throughout central New York, is teaching children how to be positive people.
Brett Woodcock, principal of Liverpool’s Morgan Road Elementary School, says if you ask any of the kids in his school, they will be able to tell you their top character strengths. So we asked fourth grader Makenna Metrick.
"Perseverance, bravery and kindness," Metrick said.
And she wasn’t shy about talking about her weaknesses.
“Appreciation of beauty and excellence, humility and modesty, and creativity," She said.
Makenna and other students have been part of the Postivity Project in their school for over two years. It drums each of 24 character strengths, identified by scientists, into these kids during 15 minute increments in an academic day. Woodcock says children become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as more aware and empathetic of other's.
"They have a better understanding of who they truly are," Woodstock said. "And when it comes to situations of bullying and things like that, really having that self confidence and self awareness is a key piece of that."
Woodcock says Morgan Road embarked on the program after a group of teachers said the school's old character ed program wasn’t having the impact they wanted.
Woodcock admits it’s hard to quantify the results of these kinds of programs, although he says there are fewer kids sent to the principal’s office since the school has been preaching positive psychology. And while it may eat 15 minutes out of a school day crammed with academics, he says it’s worth it.
“We spend hours on ELA," Woodstock said. "We spend hours on math. We spend a significant time on science and social studies. But this might be the most important thing we do."
As for Makenna, it’s helped her pay more attention to what’s happening around her and how she can help.
"Like if someone’s not treating their friend nicely, I’ll be like, 'Don’t do that, you shouldn’t do that at all,'" She said. "And they’ll be like 'Okay, Makenna, I won’t.'”