Students take charge at Ox Bow Elementary

May 25—ELKHART — One day a year at Concord Ox Bow Elementary School, students get to run the school.

Students do the announcements, they sign people in and they lead their VIP guests down the halls. On Thursday, also known as Leadership Day, students got to work at Ox Bow.

Throughout the school year, students at Ox Bow compile their test data, accomplishments, favorite moments and other things they're proud of into a binder. Then, the students are allowed to invite one VIP guest to see all they've worked on throughout the year.

Ox Bow principal Carrie Garber was involved in the day, hugging students, addressing them all by name and sharing exciting news. Garber said the leadership day gives students a chance to shine.

She said the goal of the day is to have it be run by students and to "honor the work they've accomplished this year."

This is the sixth year Ox Bow has done this, and each grade participates. It goes from kindergarten to fourth grade, each grade having 30 minute intervals to share what they prepared. Announcements can be heard from students declaring it time for VIP guests to come and go.

The day is based on a book by Stephen Covey titled, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." The school lives by these seven habits: be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize and sharpen the saw.

Student and faculty members wore blue shirts reading, "Enjoy the journey of learning," and each grade had a different shade of blue. The T-shirt design was created by a third-grade student after the school held a competition where students could submit a drawing and a theme for the day.

This year, the focus was the journey. Students set goals early on in the year, and Leadership Day is the day to unveil all their hard work. Amy Kirkpatrick, first-grade teacher, said she thinks the day is a good motivator for her students.

In Kirkpatrick's class, the students track their own data and check in monthly to see how they're doing and what they need to focus on.

"It's really exciting for them at the end of the year to see where they started versus where they ended up," she said.

The kids were excited to share how they'd achieved their goals, from improved test scores to their favorite units.

Many students shared their progression with NWEA testing, or the Northwest Evaluation Association. The test assesses students' performance in math, science, reading and language usage.

Brooklyn Velazquez, a fourth-grade student, said she was excited to share her accomplishments because she passed both of her previous NWEA scores this year.

Kaden Koontz, a third-grade student, said he was excited for his dad to visit because they spend a lot of time together.

"Last year, I was okay at reading, but now I'm pretty good," Kaden said.

Parents and grandparents were the most common VIP guests chosen by the students, but retired teachers came to see the students as well.

"I think it's beneficial because I think it gives families an opportunity to be in the school," Kirkpatrick said. "It gives them an opportunity to interact with their students in an academic setting, but it also gives kids an opportunity to be excited about their learning, and they really enjoy sharing that with other people."

She said first graders focus on the first habit throughout the year, being proactive. Through this, students concentrate on how they can be in charge of themselves and control their attitudes based on what they can control and not what happens around them.

Kirkpatrick's class shows leadership through taking initiative and helping each other. She said learning leadership skills and different responsibilities helps students to be positive citizens.

She wants students to set goals for themselves and understand what it's like to achieve them, so they know it's possible if they work hard.

While it is a goal for the first graders, it's something students carry with them throughout elementary school. Hayley Phelps, fourth-grade student, said she can't give up on herself because of how much she has learned in her five years at Ox Bow.

Although some students have participated in Leadership Day over the years, it's still something they're excited about. As VIP guests were released to the classrooms, students beamed. One boy playfully chased his baby sister, and another girl jumped into her mother's arms. Singing and giggles could be heard from the halls.

"It's one of the best days of the year because the kids are so proud," Garber said.