OTA in Action: PAWSS Program 

OTA in Action: PAWSS Program 

Meet Kathryn Schnare, Bethany Maynard, Erin Condap, Lisa Spencer, Rebecca Russell, Kristal Lorette, Alex Levin, Trevor Blanchard, and Laura Gordon, a group of committed community builders from Monadnock Regional Middle High School. One Trusted Adult sat down with this amazing group of educators to hear about a special program they created called PAWSS (Positive Activity With Staff and Students).

PAWSS began when this team of educators recognized a decrease in student interest and participation in nonacademic activities in their school community. Students seemed increasingly disconnected from school and then … the pandemic hit. A team of teachers got together on a mission to make a difference. Their task was to find creative ways to increase student involvement and enhance school community and culture. The team received a grant to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. They surveyed students on a variety of topics, including how connected students felt to the adults in their school community. They asked questions like, is there an adult you are comfortable going to for emotional and/or academic support? They were surprised at the results. Though Monadnock Regional Middle High School is an extremely caring and supportive school community, many students were not able to identify a trusted adult at school. 

In an effort to bolster involvement, improve school culture, and build trusted relationships between adults and students, PAWSS was born. PAWSS is designated daily activity time, when teachers host activities based on their individual interests and talents. Students sign up for two activities that spark their interest each quarter and rotate through the activities on an every-other-day basis. Activities include, but are not limited to: party decor, American Sign Language, seasonal crafts, hacky sack, board games, movie group, and gym-based activities. Even more important than the activities are the conversations and relationships that have been built during this nonacademic, less structured time, which eliminates the pressure of grades and creates space for downtime. 

The group commented that, after a year and half of distance learning and hybrid learning, the transition back to school has been hard. The PAWSS program has allowed students to socialize face to face, meet new students who share common interests, and connect with teachers who also share those interests. 

Some teachers were skeptical of the program initially, as they were concerned it would require additional preparation and take time away from academics, but the group is finding that the most popular activities are those that require no prep. An added benefit is that students are more engaged in class when they have connected with teachers while playing soccer or doing arts and crafts. The creators of PAWSS will continue to collect data and monitor the program’s progress.

Way to go, Monadnock Regional Middle High School! Thank you for showing up for young people in such a big way and investing in what they need most: community.