When Will Osier became the City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Chittick Elementary School, he built on the school’s existing efforts and focused on health and wellness. This was in addition to the daily work that coordinators do.
The magic ingredient: Osier created a team, a Boston Public School wellness council to create hands-on learning opportunities for students and families.
“The enrichment piece of it is engaging for the kids,” Osier says. “And that was initially what was exciting because you could see all these opportunities to help teach kids things that they’re not learning in a traditional academic setting.”
The school’s wellness council — currently composed of Osier, a classroom teacher, a physical education teacher, the school nurse, and a staff member from the Boston Nature Center, one of the school’s community partners — sets the agenda for the year, creating engaging programs for students and parents.
Among those programs:
Healthy Family Fun Nights
Thanks to a grant from Kohl’s, the Chittick school hosted family fun nights that everyone wanted to be involved in. Boston Bikes, part of the Boston Transportation Department, came and gave free helmets to the students. The Fresh Truck (a stripped-down school bus stocked with shelves of produce) came and families went inside to shop. There were also cooking demonstrations, yoga classes, and nutrition stations.
The Chittick has flower beds and an outdoor classroom, so students, faculty and staff, clean up these garden areas, plant things, and watch them grow. “It’s hands-on learning,” Osier says. “It’s not sitting at a desk doing a worksheet.” And the students love it.
Osier shared cooking magazines with 3rd through 5th grade students and asked them to cook something with family members. The students drew pictures or took photographs of their meals and wrote about them. The results were posted on the walls at school. The project promoted family engagement, writing practice, and sheer joy.
Osier has also helped organize wellness programs for school staff including hikes and dance classes.
The direct payoff of all these programs is a boost in health and wellness. But these activities along with Osier’s efforts — saying hello to every child who arrives at school each morning and calling each child by name pays off in other ways:
“One of the kids calls me his school dad,” Osier explains, “which is funny, just because I have a different role than anybody else in the school. I’m not a teacher, not an administrator. I’m a student support person, so I have the flexibility to build relationships with kids that are a little bit different. And those relationships are important because then I can get to work with the kids, and they’ll trust me, and they’ll tell me things. And they’ll try things that I’m suggesting.”
Osier’s work shows that City Connects does more than just connect students to resources. He is designing programs that advance school priorities, including health and wellness efforts, social-emotional learning, and family engagement. He is bringing in aligned community partners, and building trust — all of which makes it easier to support students and families.
It’s a potent recipe: mix a City Connects coordinator with school teachers and staff, add engaging, enriching activities, and a commitment to building strong relationships, bake for a full school year, and you get a school where children are getting the services and support that they need to thrive.