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Dunstable students earn pizza with the principal

Students at Dunstable School are eating up the just desserts of doing good deeds. Seven students earned the right to have a pizza lunch with principal Steven Kaplan by performing selfless acts in and around the school.

Students at Dunstable School are eating up the just desserts of doing good deeds.

Seven students earned the right to have a pizza lunch with principal Steven Kaplan by performing selfless acts in and around the school. Every time a student is caught doing a good deed, their name is put on a cutout paper bear and placed on the Bear Wall. The student’s name is then entered into a draw to participate in the pizza lunch, and they are given a chance to enter their name into a draw at the Co-op for $200 toward a new bike. It’s an initiative Kaplan coined the Care Bear program, and it’s part of being a safe and caring culture, which is one of school’s mandates. It started when he took over the reins of Dunstable School in April, and is part of the school’s character education and virtue commitment program.

“It’s a very effective program, and the kids really endeavour to earn the bears,” Kaplan said. The program is designed to teach the students about being good, and the bears are the credit they earn for being good students.

The pizza lunch is the immediate and visible reward for good behaviour, Kaplan said, but the initiative has a much larger reach - a global reach, in fact. Every time students earn enough care bears and reach a new plateau on the Bear Wall, the staff at Dunstable School donates money that goes toward the purchase of livestock for Third World countries. To date, the school has collected $200 and has purchased two chickens and a rooster.

“We’re showing them that this isn’t just about having pizza with me,” Kaplan said. “I have seen some really positive improvements in student behaviour, and it’s really a delight for me.”

The seven students chosen for last week’s lunch date with Kaplan were all very aware of the virtue of the month for January, which was commitment, Kaplan said. Other virtues the program has focused on since its inception were giving, empathy, and thanks, and the virtues tend to tie in with the season.

“It’s neat to see that our students are making a conscious effort to be a good person in their school,” he said. “They are developing habits through the program, and it is leading to a positive school culture, and these kids are taking ownership of that.”

The staff at the school keeps track of which students are earning Care Bears in order to determine who in the school might need help with their behavioural patterns. Sometimes, all a student needs is a little more encouragement, Kaplan said. By keeping track, teachers are able to discuss any concerns, and determine if it is the student who isn’t earning the Care Bears, or if the teachers aren’t paying close enough attention.

Grade 5 student Austin Golby was one of the lucky winners of the pizza lunch. He won the honour by helping Kindergarten students put on their boots and hang up their crazy carpets after recess.

“They’re fun kids, and they’re nice,” Golby said of his younger schoolmates. “Doing good deeds makes me feel good.”

Grade 3 student Daria Bernier agreed, and said her name was entered into the draw because she shared science materials with her friends.

“The pizza is good, and I’m having a good time,” she said between mouthfuls of pizza. “Sharing is important, because you’re being kind to other people.”