The teachers and staff at Hudson Maxim School have seen positive changes in the school environment after implementing this year's character education theme "Life is Good."
The theme, based on the best-selling book "The Energy Bus For Kids" by Jon Gordon has inspired new lessons and activities in the classrooms that all teach the students how to overcome negativity and everyday challenges by having a positive attitude.
On Monday, the students in Doreen Sciabica's first-grade class got to personally thank Gordon in a special Skype session with him, where they showed him how his book has impacted their lives, and the whole school community.
One of the activities the students showed Gordon was drawings they made of their favorite places in the school, and why it makes them happy. Some of the illustrations were of the gym, their classroom, and their sibling's classroom.
The whole class also sang The Energy Bus Song, a song about embracing positivity that is performed to the tune of B-I-N-G-O.
Gordon's book, which tells the story of a young boy who is having a bad day, but learns to overcome his challenges by staying positive, teaches five simple lessons while comparing a bus ride to the journey of life; create a positive vision, fuel your ride with positive energy, no bullies allowed, love your passengers, and enjoy the ride.
These lessons helped shape some of the classes and has taught students in a fun and interactive way that inspires them to treat others with respect, and to be optimistic about their own lives while working towards their goals.
Students who demonstrate acts of kindness have their pictures posted on a drawing of an energy bus that is hanging in the school hallway.
School Counselor Lisa Schuffenhauer, who helped implement the theme, said the energy bus idea has inspired the kids to be optimistic in class every day.
"They see the Energy Bus and want to be positive," she said. "They cannot wait to stop me in the hall to report the positive things they are doing or other students are doing. There is an excitement all around for the Energy Bus [and] being positive."
Hudson Maxim School Principal Tracey Hensz said the theme has been a success so far with the students, parents and teachers.
"There's nothing more important than creating a positive energy within a school, especially here at Hudson Maxim, because this is their first experience with school," she said. "We want them to love it, and we want to teach them to be positive. Being negative is a learned behavior, so we're going to focus on being positive."
The theme is incorporated into all aspects of the school day, beginning with a morning announcement where Hensz reads three acts of kindness.
Another activity inspired by the book is creating license plates, where students write an anti-bullying message on the plates to show their commitment to stopping bullies.
Teachers also reward students with bus tickets for positive actions, which get put into a bucket in each classroom. Parents have tickets at home as well to give to their children to reward them for good behavior.
The bus drivers are involved with maintaining a positive climate as well, by displaying signs on each bus with positive messages they review with the children.
Sciabica said she has seen a big difference in her class with this year's theme.
"The kids are embracing it," she said. "They are being more positive. As soon as they hop off their school bus, they're telling me all the wonderful things that they did."
Sciabica said that the students were able to transition well after Hurricane Sandy because they focused on thinking positive and having a good attitude during a hard time, which Gordon demonstrates in his book.
School officials were inspired to bring the Energy Bus Program to the school after Hopatcong High School principal Noreen Lazaruik, who was at the elementary school on Monday, spoke about another book of Gordon's, "The No Complaining Rule," which she found to be successful at another district.
All classes in the school have read the book, and the parents were introduced to the concept during Back to School Night in September.
To learn more about the book and program, visit its website.