In an effort to improve safety and ensure positive social and emotional climates, the state of Connecticut requires all schools to evaluate their school climates.
The state typically relies on student, teacher and parent surveys to understand each school’s climate, but Wilton took it a step further to understand and work to improve school climate, respect and safety in all its schools.
One facet of the district’s comprehensive initiative took place at Miller-Driscoll on Thursday, April 9, when approximately 400 students in kindergarten through second grade reported on school climate — artistically.
Students drew pictures, depicting what they see, experience and know about school climate, and the ways they treat each other on the bus, on the playground, in the hallways, and in the lunchroom.
This form of surveying — designed by Dr. Bill Preble and the Center for School Climate and Learning — allows even the youngest students to voice their concerns and share their experiences.
“We know that student-written surveys are not useful with such young children, so we developed this school climate research process to include young students using well-established art therapy techniques,” Dr. Preble said in a press release.

After drawing pictures of themselves on the bus, the playground, in the hallways, and at lunch, the students sat down with student researchers from New Hampshire’s New England College, who asked them to describe what was going on in their pictures.
The researchers then coded the students’ responses as either positive or negative while capturing their stories.
“We learned a lot about the school climate perceptions and experiences of K-2 students at Miller Driscoll School from our picture discussions with over 450 students,” Dr. Preble told The Bulletin.

SafeMeasures


The art-based climate survey at Miller-Driscoll is part of the districtwide implementation of Dr. Preble’s SafeMeasures School Climate Improvement Process, which has been used in schools nationwide for more than 20 years.
Teams of students from each Wilton school — who have been selected and trained — are now working with Dr. Preble and their teachers to collect school climate data and set goals for improvement.
The teams are in the process of developing action plans for each school to address issues shown in their data, which will be implemented over the next two years.
The School Climate Leadership Team at Miller-Driscoll wanted its students and teachers to be fully involved in the districtwide school climate improvement effort.
After being told that student surveys were not an appropriate practice for such young children, Dr. Preble and his team worked with the Miller-Driscoll team to develop the art-based, early childhood action research process.
A set of evening meetings will be scheduled for the community to share what has been learned in the early stages of this process, as well as the goals that each school has set for improving school climate and learning.
Click here  to learn more about SafeMeasures.