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This Month's Best Practice

Each Month the Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University (MCCE@SU) picks one of the Best Practices from a Character Education award winning school to share with you.


This month's Best Practices is from an award winning school from 2015-2016.




School: Bryant Woods Elementary School

Address: 5450 Blue Heron Lane, Columbia, MD 21117
Principal: Kelley Hough
E-Mail: Kelly_Hough@hcpss.org

Phone: 410-313-6859


Character Ed. Contact: Ashley Armstead

E-Mail: Ashley_Armstead@hcpss.org


Title of Best Practice: Grow Strong: Focus on What’s Strong Instead of What’s Wrong!


Primary Principles Emphasized: 4, 7, and 10


Every student is inspired to learn, grow, and be empowered to excel by building home, school and community partnerships. We teach our children to focus on their talents and strengths in order to increase engagement, which in turn increased academic growth. We strive to cultivate a vibrant learning community that prepares students to thrive in a dynamic world. We foster a positive, uplifting learning community by building positive relationships, collaborations, and striving to accommodate the needs of all families within the Bryant Woods community.


Principle 4: Creates a caring school community.

At Bryant Woods, we foster a positive learning community within our students by promoting kindness and how to care of one another. We teach our children the importance of having great character and letting their personality shine through! Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success! Bryant Woods promotes great character through our partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Ellicott City for the BWES Terrific Kids program! On the first Friday of each month, our teachers recognize students that they see exhibit Bryant Woods Pride:


• Positive Attitude
• Respect
• Integrity
• Dedication
• Enthusiasm


Students are recognized on the morning announcements, take a picture for the Terrific Kids Bulletin board, receive Terrific Kids certificate, pencils, pins, and bumper stickers, and a picture with the principal! We have also implemented a Bucket Filling Program where students are encouraged to show random acts of kindness on a daily basis! Bucket filling encourages positive behavior as children see how very easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis. The bucket represents your mental and emotional self. One’s bucket is filled when a student displays:

• Actions or words that show that you care about someone
• Saying or doing something kind
• Giving someone a heartfelt smile
• Using names with respect
• Helping without being asked
• Giving sincere compliments
• Showing respect to others. There are hundreds of wonderful ways to fill buckets!


Students get a chance to catch those awesome bucket fillers by completing a bucket filler slip, and placing it in the bucket box located inside of the cafeteria or in Ms. Armstead’s mailbox. Each morning, Ms. Armstead recognizes two students over the morning announcements as the Bryant Woods’ Heroes of the Day for being awesome bucket fillers!

Through our Grow Strong initiative, we held Grow Strong Weeks! The theme was:



When we focus on the strengths and talents of our students, it increases engagement, which in turn increases academic growth! Bryant Woods was able to celebrate one Grow Strong principle each week through classroom strength activities and fun school-wide activities! The principles and activities were:


5 Principles of Growing Strong


I. Do What We Do Best Everyday *Activity*: Dress Your Best Day: Put your best foot forward!

II. Start With The Goal In Mind *Activity*: College Day: Wear your favorite College paraphernalia!

III. Engage in Positive Experiences in School *Activity*: Wacky Tacky Day: Dress as wacky as you can!

IV. Create Excitement for the Future *Activity*: Future’s So Bright Day: Wear your favorite shades/sunglasses!

V. Celebrate Effort and Achievement *Activity*: Positive Post-It Day: Leave a positive message about someone on their desk or door! Show your kindness and appreciation!

Lastly, we had a our Anti-Bullying Campaign: Make it Orange and Make it End! The school came together in orange and talked about the importance of a Bully-Free Zone. Our students even said a pledge and joined the Bully Blockers Club! It was a great event to come together and focus on spreading love and kindness.

Principle 7: Strives to foster students’ self-motivation.


At Bryant Woods Elementary School, we strive to teach our children not only self-confidence, but also to motivate and encourage each other. Each and every morning on the morning announcements, our students recite the Bryant Woods Bear Chant together stating:


(Staff & Students): I am a BEAR!
(Staff): Bears are BIG!
(Students): I have BIG dreams!
(Staff): Bears are FAST!
(Students): I will be productive and complete all my work!
(Staff): Bears have great hearing!
(Students): I will listen and follow directions the first time!
(Staff): Bears have VISION!
(Students): I see a bright future ahead of me!
(Staff): Bears are social!
(Students): I will interact positively with others!
(Staff): Bears are strong!
(Students): I will work hard and do my best!
(Staff & Students): I am a BEAR!

This has built community in our school, and allows our students to have a daily affirmation reminding them that they can do whatever they put their mind to. Ms. Armstead, the School Counselor, has monthly guidance lessons within all 21 classrooms. Throughout Ms. Armstead’s guidance lessons, she teaches the children how to positive self-talk, solve conflicts in a peaceful and respectful manner, and how to help others instead of hurt. Character lessons have been integrated with student strengths. Students have been able to discuss how to be respectful of others, be responsible for themselves and their actions, spread kindness, and to persevere through! It is so important to never give up on the dreams and hopes that they have for their amazing bright futures. Each month our students learn and see how they can use their super strengths and talents to be the best hey can be. The Super Strengths for the month were:

1. September: Achieving
2. October: Caring
3. November: Competing
4. December: Confidence
5. January: Dependability
6. February: Discoverer
7. March: Future Thinker
8. April: Organizer
9. May: Presence
10. June: Relator

When our students as well as our staff use their strengths and talents, they worker harder, they are more engaged, and build stronger relationships and connections with those around them. Using the Grow Strong platform, we help our students graduate and leave Bryant Woods with more padding, hope, and inner strength to keep their fire going as they go into middle school. We want our students to cross that stage twice! Not just in high school, but college as well, instilling their college and career mindset.


Our students that exhibit excellent, self-motivating behavior get the opportunities to earn Bear Bucks, POSITIVE Office Referrals, Citizenship and Great Character Awards quarterly, Terrific Kids Awards, and Bryant Woods Hero Award. Our students have even took the initiative to help implement a Student Mentors program, where our older students in 5th grade can help motivate and encourage our younger children. This has truly helped with student engagement as well as academic growth.


Our students also had the opportunity to participate in the Pasta for Pennies/Pennies for Patients campaign! The Pasta for Pennies Campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was a student-led program where students were able to show citizenship, responsibility, generosity, and kindness by raising money for patients. We rocked our school goal with $2,686.20! Our students came together and showed how much they cared to end blood cancers! It meant so much to the patients and their families!

Principle 10: Engages families and community members as partners in the character-building

At Bryant Woods, we have a Family Involvement Team. The vision and mission of our FIT team states:


Every student is inspired to learn and empowered to excel by building home, school and community partnerships.


To cultivate a vibrant learning community that prepares students to thrive in a dynamic world. We will increase family engagement by building positive relationships, collaboration, and striving to accommodate the needs of all families within the Bryant Woods community.


Our Terrific Kid program is a great example of building positive partnerships with the Kiwanis Club of Ellicott City. Through this amazing partnership, teachers are able to recognize students that they see exhibit Bryant Woods Pride:

• Positive Attitude
• Respect
• Integrity
• Dedication
• Enthusiasm

This year, Bryant Woods was able to have their first Career Day! Over 50 guests (parents and community members) participated and came in to present to our students! Aligning with our College and Career initiative, we wanted to expose our students to the wonderful careers and occupations that are within our community! We wanted our students to know how adults use the subjects they learn at school in their jobs, as well as the hard work, dedication, and perseverance it took to get them where they are now! Students had the opportunity to learn about specific occupations, the importance of the subjects they study in school, and positive attitude they should have. We strive for our students to continue to dream big, and want nothing more than to instill hope in them that they can reach their fullest potential. Some of our 4th and 5th graders had the position of Student Ambassadors, where they were able to be the leaders of Bryant Woods, welcome our guests, and be their personal escorts throughout the day. It was an amazing event, and our students were truly able to see how bright their future is!


Bryant Woods Elementary is the first and only school in Howard County to have an in-house Food Pantry in partnership with the Howard County Food Bank. Community members are welcomed on Tuesdays and Fridays each week to pick up food for their family. Our students use their strength of caring and citizenship to organize and feed the Wilde Lake Community. It’s amazing to see their eagerness and kindness shine!

The Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University
School of Education, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com