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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: Bel Air Middle School

Address: 99 Idlewild Street, Bel Air, MD 21014
Principal: Natalie Holloway
E-Mail: Natalie.Holloway@hcps.org

Phone: 410-638-4140


Character Ed. Contact: Patricia Bales

E-Mail: Patricia.Bales@hcps.org


Title of Best Practice: Bobcat Pride Program


Primary Principles Emphasized: 2, 3, & 11


Through intentional practices, BEL Air Middle School encourages the character development of P.R.I.D.E. for all students and staff.


Description of Principles:


Principle 2 - “Character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing

As the character education program at Bel Air Middle School has evolved, we have created new lessons and initiatives based on student feedback. All stakeholders at BAMS are involved in what is taught during our weekly Panther Period lesson time (30 mins per week).


This year, our lessons included:

Cyber Safety - Lessons were created and taught school-wide. Tips for staying safe while online and on social media as well as how to protect your identity on the internet were included. We hosted members from our local Child Advocacy Center as well as law enforcement to present to our students during grade-level assemblies the dangers and legal ramifications online activities can have. In addition, that evening, there was a parent information session that was held at the school to share the information they need to try to ensure that their children are safe while online.

Organization and Time Management
- This school wide lesson gave students specific strategies to use in order to be more successful in school. They rated activities in order of most to least important and were given organizational strategies for their notebooks and planners.

Motivation and Study Skills - This lesson was taught in November when students need a little push to get them through to winter break. “What kind of person do I want to be today?” is on a large poster for all students to see as they enter the school building. Students engaged in discussions about how this quote can help them set their goals to be successful. In addition, students watched a video of a student making many choices; some were not effective and others were. Students had to decide which choice was best and why.

Random Acts of Kindness - Students learned about what it means to perform random acts of kindness. As a school-wide activity, the students were asked to create a card for a soldier who was returning from deployment or for a sick child at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Students made well over 1000 cards for these agencies and they were mailed to the recipients.

New Year’s Resolutions (6th and 7th grade) - This lesson was taught in January as students reflected on how they can show PRIDE (Positive, Respectful, Independent, Determined, and Engaged) at school as well as at home. There was individual as well as group reflections about things to work to improve over the next several months left of the school year.


High School Preparation (8th grade) - The transition to high school is anxiety filled for our eighth graders. We spent two weeks talking about this change in environment. The first lesson included a group discussion about what students were most concerned about regarding the transition to high school. Each homeroom came up with a list of questions for high school students. The second week, we collaborated with our high school and had 2-3 high school students in each of the eighth grade homerooms. The list of questions was compiled and the high school students eased the mind of the transitioning freshmen.


Perseverance and Determination(7th grade) - Our 7th graders sometime feel some confusion as they go through many changes socially, emotionally, and academically. This lesson had students brainstorm specific ways to persevere in the face of adversity or when things become difficult. They examined quotes and watched a video (Caine’s Arcade) in order to watch another young person’s struggle to stick with something in order for it to be successful.

Pillars of Character(6th grade) - Our first year embedding character education was built around the Pillars of Character. This year, the 7th and 8th graders were already familiar with these attributes because of our student recognition tickets as well as the lessons. We compiled the lessons that were taught over an entire year into one cohesive lesson to introduce students to what character is and how it can be measured.


Principle 3 - Uses a comprehensive, intentional, proactive, and effective approach to character development


Bel Air Middle School has implemented:


* Weekly lesson time that is designated for character education. During this time, lessons that have been created by our PBIS team are taught.

* PRIDE tickets which students earn if they demonstrate being Positive, Respectful, Independent, Determined, or being Engaged. This year, we had over 2,000 of these tickets written for students. We also have community donations which we use as prizes for our drawings. Our lobby was filled with paw prints representing each of the tickets that were written.


*Positive Office Referrals are written for students who go above and beyond or who have made a big improvement with academic performance and/or behavior. These students earn a certificate as well as a phone call home by an administrator.


*Student committee- The student committee has been crucial in planning lessons, pep rallies, and prizes for students. These students include diverse representatives from all three grade levels.


*Pep Rallies were held twice this year in order to build school spirit introduce and reinforce our PRIDE program. In the fall, each team created a puzzle piece about how they demonstrate PRIDE. There were presentations of the puzzle pieces and then each team in the grade level put their pieces together to create Panthers for each grade level. These hung in the cafeteria all year. We had guest speakers, motivational team-building games, prize drawings, and school spirit!!! In the spring we had another pep rally right before PARCC. More than 100 students per grade level participated in the games. The connection between our PRIDE program and their performance on PARCC was highlighted. At the end of year, students were asked how to make these more exciting and engaging next year.

*Staff recognition-In order to ensure that everyone in the building is demonstrating good character, students and other staff members recognize the adults working in the building. We include cafeteria workers, custodians, administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, special education aids, and unified arts teachers.

Principle 11 - Evaluates the character of the school, the school’s staff functioning as character educators, and the extent to which students manifest good character.


Bel Air Middle School includes character education into the School Improvement Plan. This enables everyone to be more vested in the initiative. Each and every staff person at the school is assigned to a classroom during our character lessons. Administrators, physical education, music, special education, etc. teachers all participate in delivering the instruction. This process has had a positive impact on the culture and character of the school. Each staff member writes PRIDE tickets and participates in the lessons. In addition, teachers try whenever possible to include discussion into their own curriculum about how to demonstrate PRIDE. Language Arts teachers have had character analysis considering the characteristics or PRIDE. Physical education teachers discuss being positive, respectful, and engaged on a daily basis as they differentiate instruction for their students. Social studies teachers discuss how things in history have not followed our PRIDE expectations and asked students to come up with possible solutions. As a cross-curricular, school-wide program, students are infused with character education on a daily basis. We constantly analyze data, including both positive and negative referrals as well as the number and characteristic of PRIDE tickets written, teacher recognitions, and student attendance.






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

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com