Winfield’s Whittier Elementary School is one of 10 Kansas schools that will be recognized in September for the civic engagement opportunities they offer students.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson announced the honors this week during a Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka, according to a press release. Schools will be honored on Constitution Day in Topeka.

The Civic Advocacy Network (CAN) was established by the Kansas State Department of Education to recognize schools that actively involve students in civic engagement opportunities and to help collect exemplary civic engagement practices to share with schools across the state. 

The ultimate goal of CAN is to promote civic engagement as part of all preK-12 students’ experiences. 

“We really work to develop leadership and the volunteer spirit at Whittier,” Principal Marcia McIntire said. All the things students do are “to develop them into the adults we can call upon,” she said.

Whittier’s role

Whittier Elementary does not have specific history or civic classes, but they gear many activities to explore those areas of students’ lives. 

The school began its One School, One Book program in fall 2018 with “The Lemonade War.” Every family got a copy of the book. Parents could read it to students at home — or students could read ii to them — and all could participate in activities that promoted literacy both at home and at school. 

The second book of the year, “The Penny War,” was the inspiration for the students’ raising $1,300 for the Sedgwick County Zoo. The students got rewards from the zoo and a visit from the Pittsburg Sate gorilla, and the gorillas at the zoo got a month of food from the kids’ efforts. 

All 290 Whittier students got to write essays about their heroes. The essays were read by outside judges, and the winners read their essays with their heroes standing by their sides. 

One hero actually lost his life a few months after the assembly and his obituary mentioned how meaningful the assembly was to him, Principal Marcia McIntire wrote in the application for the award.

The students also took part in Bark Day, celebrating the Cowley County Humane Society and dog park being built in Winfield. 

The school’s Earth Club encourages recycling and helping keep the school grounds beautiful. 

Tech Team and Library Aides work to promote technology in both the library and in classrooms.

Whittier has been the recipient of the Winfield Rotary Club’s dictionary and book presentations every year. 

The school participates in Veterans Day activities with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. 

The variety of activities in which students participate demonstrate how the school has made awareness of the civic and community life beyond the classroom basic to the education there.

“We are gung ho about creating leaders,” McIntire said. “And I have a beautiful staff that wants them to be leaders too.”

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