The 2021-22 school year is off to a great start! Our staff and students are enjoying being back together daily for learning and growing. Our focus in the Goldendale School District this fall is on connection. We all need to feel connected to others, to what we are learning, and to the environment around us. These connections strengthen our life long skills and deepen our learning.

Feeling connected increases our ability to learn. This is true of young children, adolescents, and adults. We have the potential to connect interpersonally, with our environment, with concepts, and to our broader community and world.

Interpersonal connection is the ability to connect and interact with the people around us. Starting in Kindergarten, we support our learners in forming positive relationships with their peers. The ability to connect with others changes as we age and navigate the complexity and expanding number of relationships. This means that the skillset for interpersonal connecting continues to develop. When we feel connected to others, we are able to learn with them, be empathetic, and create positive support systems.

Our teachers have supported this growth in students by getting to know students and families during Family Connections in our first three days of schools. Teachers use this information as they design instruction, tapping into interests and background knowledge. They also specifically teach communication and collaboration skills to support students in connecting with their classroom community.

Environmental connection is our ability to connect with the environment. Our environment consists of what we experience outside, inside, and even online. We have an impact on these and each of these contexts has an impact on us.

During summer school, our students actively worked to change the physical school environment by adding picnic tables at the Primary school. This addition allows students to expand their learning outside. Our brains need movement and time outside to take full advantage of learning.

Often in schools we segment our day and teach content in discrete unconnected ways. Our learning is enhanced by creating connections across and between content areas. This conceptual connection especially deepens our learning when we are able to connect what we are learning with our interests and life outside of school.

Connecting with our community, inside and outside of the school, helps us make a difference in the lives of others. Children connect first with their immediate family, then extended family, peers, community, and beyond. As this growth happens, we see the positive difference we can make.

Randi Krieg, ESD105 Regional Teacher of the Year, and Goldendale Middle School teacher shared a Killdeer project that her students engaged with last year in her TOY application. This project provided students with an opportunity to connect science, writing, and a community problem. The students researched impacts, generated questions, and connected with community partners. This is one example of the many projects and learnings that happen daily in GSD schools.

The antidote for loneliness, disengagement, and isolation is connection. Our focus on connection is intended to support students in developing critical lifelong skills that will assist with their well-being and contribution to their community.