Tue, Oct. 22

Capturing Kids Hearts on Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board agenda

COTTONWOOD – For much of the past year, school districts across the Verde Valley have utilized the Capturing Kids Hearts model to engage students through both their social and their emotional intelligence.

Tuesday, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District governing board could officially adopt the Flippen Group’s motivational program district-wide.

“It’s important that the board look at that as a district program,” says Barb U’Ren, COCSD superintendent. “The commonality between classrooms, schools, building groups in classes, how we handle behavior. We’re very excited with what we’ve been seeing.”

One key component to the Capturing Kids Hearts program is asking four simple questions to keep students on task. Debbie Earl, technology exploratory instructor at Cottonwood Middle School, was recently on the other end of the questions with two of her students.

“One day I was off work, my dog was sick,” Earl remembers. “So I was out walking him. About the time the bus was dropping off students at the end of the day, I saw two children from my school. One asked, ‘Mrs. Earl, what are you doing? Then they asked in unison, ‘what should you be doing?’”

The next two questions students and teachers learn to ask as they capture kids hearts are “Are you doing it [what you’re supposed to be doing]?” and “What are you going to do about it?”

Earl, working her way toward becoming a classroom instructor, says that the program “creates connections” between the teachers and their students.

“The program asks us to frontload and give the children extra time,” Earl says. “The kids get to know each other. When one has a bad day, you’ve got them where they’ll tell you what’s going on. You’ve got that connection.”

The theme of the Flippen Group’s program is “If you have a child’s heart, you have a child’s mind.” And by using Capturing Kids Hearts, teachers can “create those emotionally safe environments,” says COCSD Assistant Superintendent Steve King.

“They don’t have to be afraid of who they are, the unique individuals they are,” King says. “And there’s framework and structure for teachers who may not have experience with difficult questions. How do we solve conflict? And not just the kids. This helps develop common language, processes and expectations not just for the kids on our schools, but the community as a whole.”

And U’Ren says that reaching a child on a personal level is crucial for a teacher to actually teach.

“You take the time to build your classroom, build your relationships, group safety,” U’Ren says. “It all boils down to two things for the kids. ‘Am I going to be liked?’ And ‘Can I do the work?’ Really, there’s nothing new here. It’s not rocket science. Real strategies to put into your tool belt.”

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the district office, located at 1 N. Willard St. in Cottonwood. As of Oct. 17, a copy of the agenda will be available at the district website,

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