Want to know what’s it like to attend WINGS and experience our life skills curriculum? Here’s a look at WINGS through the eyes of our kids. Each week we focus on one of the 30 learning objectives that make up our life skills curriculum. For this example, the objective is for kids to learn how to focus their attention inward in order to limit distractions outward.
The opening of the WINGS program - known as Community Unity - consists of four parts:
- The Welcome, when WINGSLeaders greet incoming students;
- Eat and Meet, providing nutritious snacks with group interaction;
- Circle Time, when leaders connect with kids and engage them in brief activities;
- Good News and Announcements, for sharing student information with everyone.
During Community Unity, the kids gather in the cafeteria. This is the time they all recite Our Creed. The Nests of 10-12 kids sit in circles playing a game. The goal is for all of the kids to try to make each other smile, without smiling themselves. The kids have a ton of fun. Then their WINGSLeader, a college student, teaches them a trick – how to focus inward. They’re told: Close your eyes and imagine you can see your heart beating. Open your eyes and still try to see it beating. The life skills curriculum of lessons and games continue.
Then the Program Director gets on the microphone and talks about why it’s important to be able to focus attention inward to limit distractions. She tells the kids about the time when she was in a play and forgot her lines because she was looking out into the audience. She asks for other staff members and kids to come up and give examples of when they got distracted and it ended badly.
After Community Unity comes Choice Time for 40 minutes.
As a regular part of our life skills curriculum, our kids have one Choice Time twice a week over the course of a semester. Choice Time offers a group of electives divided into appropriate developmental levels and utilizies collaborations with community partners. Once kids make their choices, they pursue their electives for one semester. Many will be suggested by the students, which increases their involvement.
To build decision-making skills and encourage affinities, students will discuss what interests them and build on their strengths or explore their curiosities, as well as how to think through choice selection. Two days a week the kids participate in activities like dance, exercise and nutrition, history, music, computer capabilities, reading and writing, science, chess or visual and verbal puzzle-solving, art, sports, and photography.
There’s a fast paced game of kickball going on during a Choice Time activity. The coach, one of our WINGSLeaders, brings the team into a huddle. The coach talks about how to focus inward by telling the kids to concentrate on their breathing when they kick the ball and ignore the shouts from the sidelines – they’ll have a much better chance of getting a good kick.
Next comes Academic Center at the end of the day. All students spend 40 minutes in quiet Academic Centers where staff and volunteers provide assistance and encouragement in a productive atmosphere, and the adult-student ratio is 1 to 12. Keeping with our learning objective example, a WINGSLeader talks to the kids about how to position their bodies, where to focus their eyes, so that distractions don’t prevent them from getting homework done.
Every Wednesday, the life skills curriculum includes WINGSWorks - community service around the school. Research demonstrates that when students contribute through activities that serve others, it improves attachment to school and increases their own pride and self-confidence.
For WINGSWorks, a Nest rakes leaves on the playground. The WINGSLeader demonstrates the difference between limiting distractions (getting all the leaves in one pass) or letting distractions in (having to go back over the same ground twice). He tells the boys that if they get done quickly, they can spend time playing on the playground after the job is done. He notices that the kids are focusing inward and limiting distractions. He rewards them with play time.
On Fridays we have WildWINGS, 90 minutes of games, discussions and role-playing that help students comprehend the relationship between thoughts, emotions and actions. It’s always something new – WildWINGS is a fun and crazy way to end our weekly life skills curriculum.
The WildWINGS for this particular day is called “Are You Balanced???” Games are set up all over the school – there is a low bar balance beam – there’s a series of buckets to stand on – there’s a relay race carrying raw eggs on a spoon – yes, they love to drop them! There’s a point system and when the results are added up, the winners are celebrated. Throughout the afternoon, lesson after lesson offers strategies and practice in managing distractions. At the end of the day, giant bouncy balls are raffled off.
So there were numerous life skills lessons – both formal and informal – that help teach kids how to focus their attention inward to limit distractions.
If you are interested in learning more, please read about our DIY Activities or download our free social skills activities to help model, shape and reinforce social skills.