MS Embraces Innovative Ways to Build Character

students arm knitting with chunky yarn

MS Embraces Innovative Ways to Build Character

Personal Development Day Focuses on Kids

This school year, O’Rourke Middle School staff have been embracing innovative ways to help students build character through the school’s new multi-year Character Education Program. The program allows school leaders to incorporate 24 different character-building traits into schoolwide events, programs, daily instruction, and activities that are all based on positive psychology.

“We want kids to feel good, to challenge themselves, and to know that nothing is unattainable,” explains O’Rourke Middle School Principal Colleen Wolff. “This program help us strengthen this message in non-traditional ways while also bringing the entire school community together.”

One such innovative activity was the school’s recent Personal Development Day (during a half day earlier this month) where students were instructed to shelve their books and put away their schoolwork in favor of other activities that were centered around them and focused on personal development, community connections, learning a new skill, team building, and stress relief.

“The day was about letting kids be kids,” said Lindsay Armbruster, a middle school health teacher and one of the co-chairs of Personal Development Day. “Today’s kids have packed schedules with lots of external demands, stressors, and distractions, so we wanted to give back to them and encourage them to focus on themselves.”

two students using mixing bowl to make bath bombs

The students were asked to participate in either one 90-minute or two 45-minutes workshops led by faculty, staff, community members, PTA members, and even Superintendent Dr. McGrath. Students could choose from more than four dozens different activities, such as Salsa dancing, yoga, woodshop creations, ukulele jamming, make-your-own stress balls, painting kindness rock, sports, photography, an Escape Room, Sim City Lego Challenge, arm knitting (first photo), snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, DIY Valentine’s, make-your-own bath bombs (photo above), Improv, and the list goes on and on.

“There were so many workshops I wanted to take,” said Jordan Butcher, a middle school student who was making a stress-relief ball in a classroom that smelled like lavender essential oils and had soothing music playing through a portable speaker. “I’ve never done anything like this and it seemed really fun. I hope we can use this in class or during a test,” she added while holding up the stress-relief ball.

student squeezing homemade stress relief ball

Mental health experts explain that supporting a child’s social-emotional skills is just as important as their academic growth. These levels need to be aligned in order for kids to fully achieve and succeed.

“Personal Development Day is how we demonstrated to kids that’s it’s ok to step away from a traditional school day for a little while to take care of your inner self,” says Wolff. “And it was an incredibly successful and rewarding day,” she adds. “It’s wonderful to see kids connecting with students from other grades, with their teachers, and with adults from the community all while discovering something new within each of them.”

The students were also treated to a powerful presentation about personal triumphs by youth motivational speaker Brandon Lee White.

students sitting in chairs playing ukuleles

Personal Development Day Workshop Options

  • Animation
  • Arm Knitting
  • Badminton Singles Tournament
  • Book Swap Suggestions
  • Character Ed Building Board Project
  • Circuit Workout
  • Coloring for Relaxation
  • Communication through Drawing
  • Create the Ultimate Spa Day
  • Creativity in the Kitchen
  • Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
  • DEAR (Drop Everything And Read)
  • Dear Role Model
  • DIY Valentines
  • Easy Dinner for you Family
  • Escape Room
  • Games
  • Hand Lettering
  • Hello, Future Me
  • Helping Hands
  • How to Solve Sudoku
  • HS Spartan Peer Alliance
  • Hygiene Kits for the Homeless
  • Improv
  • Kindness Rocks
  • Leadership from Where You Are
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
  • Make Your Own Stress Ball
  • Math Manipulated
  • Mental Health & Wellness 101
  • Mindset Mastery
  • Minute to Win It
  • Name that Tune
  • Paint & Sip Smoothies
  • Picture Book Share
  • Pigs, Chickens & Pancakes: Home Grown vs Mass Production
  • Portrait Photography
  • Public Speaking
  • Salsa Dancing
  • Samuel Meredith: Historical Storytelling
  • Sim City Lego Challenge
  • Ukulele Jam
  • What’s in YOUR bag?
  • Woodshop Creations
  • Word Games
  • Yoga
  • Yoga Nidra with Sankalpa