- When Jonathan Raymond, the former superintendent of schools for the Sacramento City Unified School District, began adopting a whole-child approach to education, he found it to be a challenge, wrote EdSurge.
- But some of his steps included starting summer programs where new middle and high school students had a chance to meet their classmates before the first day of school. Children also worked on a five-week community service project of their own choosing.
- Raymond also said it's crucial to involve families in district decisions — even asking for their ideas related to budget cuts — which he faced during his tenure.
A whole-child approach considers the variety of issues that affect students' lives — from what happens at home, in their community, and their mental and physical health — and how those factors impact learning. Academic assessments, for example, capture a single snapshot of time, but do not highlight a child’s feelings about themselves, nor the external factors impacting their ability to learn, and ideally thrive.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better define what a whole-child approach encompasses. According to its website, health is one area that deeply impacts a child’s ability to learn, and can be integrated thoroughly into curriculum through physical education and by addressing nutritional needs.
“Health and education affect individuals, society and the economy and, as such, must work together whenever possible,” the organization wrote in “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child.” “Schools are a perfect setting for this collaboration.” This approach is echoed in social and emotional development and learning guidelines published by New York State, noting that the “…optimally healthy student is more likely than the less healthy student to succeed in school."
While some schools have partnered with healthcare providers to have on-site clinics through a community school approach, many of the goals that administrators are currently embracing, such as expanding social and emotional learning programs, improving school climate, adding employee wellness programs, and eliminating toxins such as lead and mold from school buildings, are also part of removing some of the barriers that get in the way of learning.