Thames Elementary School

Thames Elementary School (Hattiesburg Public Schools) with University Baptist Church. This project aims to improve student behavior and academic achievement.

Thames Elementary School partners with University Baptist Church to improve student behavior and academic achievement. By means of the yearly needs assessment, the group determined a need for
positive behavior supports as well academic achievement. Specifically, student behavior that fosters both academic excellence and integrity. This partnership began in 2011 with members of University Baptist Church located in Hattiesburg, MS. Lida McDowell and Karen Walker chose to begin the partnership with a
school garden that the students would help create, maintain, and harvest. With the help of volunteers from University Baptist Church, for 9 years, the students of Thames Elementary grew and harvested various vegetables. When the school leadership team met with Mrs. McDowell and Mrs. Walker, it was established there was a need for a curriculum-based program. The team decided to implement the Project Learning Tree (PLT) environmental education initiative. PLT provides hands-on activities and a multi-disciplinary curriculum. This curriculum helps develop students’ awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the environment. Students are encouraged to take personal responsibility for sustaining the environment.

In an effort to address academic achievement, the team decided to begin by providing students hands-on experiences through gardening and other outdoor activities. Research indicates that exposing children to the outdoors improves emotional and physical well-being, enhances learning, and promotes positive social behavior. Currently, 15-20 volunteers a year participate in the planning and preparation of the lessons taught to the students. The volunteers work with the school leadership team to provide on-going support for outdoor activities that connect to the Science curriculum. The outdoor lessons align with the specific Science standard being taught at that time.

The benefits of this school-based partnership for students include improving academic outcomes as well as promoting positive student behavior while exposing students to enjoyable and educational opportunities that help them connect with nature. This partnership has created a positive atmosphere at the school as well as assisted in building relationships between the school and the community. The outcomes produced through this partnership define the meaning of “every community behind every child”.