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Exploring ASCD's Whole Child Tenet: ENGAGED


Authors: Kelli Coons, Instructional Technology Coach and Austin Greene, Title I Math Academic Specialist

Since 2007, ASCD and our state affiliate, South Carolina ASCD (SCASCD), have served as advocates for educating the Whole Child. The Whole Child Approach serves to expand the narrative around education from focusing solely on academic achievement to include tenets that promote the long term development and success of all children. Through the Whole Child initiative, ASCD helps educators, families, community members, and policymakers move from a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative action. ASCD is joined in this effort by Whole Child Partner organizations representing the education, arts, health, policy, and community sectors. The Whole Child Education has 5 tenets that focus on different components of the students and the adults in a school. The 5 tenets are:

  1. Healthy - Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

  2. Safe - Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

  3. Engaged - Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

  4. Supported - Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

  5. Challenged - Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

Engaged is a tenet that is often discussed among educational groups, but what does engagement mean in regards to the whole child? This tenet ensures each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

When seeking to engage their students, teachers often use active learning strategies in their classrooms. Active learning strategies include but are not limited to: a project/problem-based learning approach, STEAM/STEM initiatives, Makerspace creations, and a collaborative classroom. These strategies thrive within cooperative learning environments and directly address student interests.

Learning experiences and curricula should incorporate real-world applications and college/career ready competencies. Students should be encouraged to communicate what they are learning and their purpose for learning. Digital skills embedded within the core curriculum support and elevate student learning outcomes. Educators plan for instruction with an “end-game focus” while identifying connections to the world beyond the classroom. When students understand these connections, they see the purpose for what they are learning.

It is imperative that students have opportunities to contribute to their immediate school environment as well as within the greater school community. These contributions might include a student government structure, classroom leadership opportunities, school ambassadors, utilization of the house system, and service learning experiences through various community organizations.

The incorporation of student choice is just as important within the extracurricular activities offered as it is in the classroom. Students should have opportunities to engage in activities that reflect their passions and interests. Lego Club, STEM Club, Girls on The Run, 4H Club, Debate Club, Project Lead the Way, and Recycling Club are shining examples of allowing students to pursue their interests.

Students should have ownership in monitoring their individual progress toward goals. SMART goals could be established to help students identify their strengths and areas of growth in order to measure success. Another example of this type of student ownership is using NWEA scores and the learning continuum to determine specific learning pathways for each student. Multiple formative assessment measures could be used as data to determine progress towards goals. Opportunities to celebrate growth should be emphasized to encourage and recognize students.

Of all of the tenets, the engaged student, sets the tone for the rest of the tenets to be successful. An engaged student is connected to the classroom and school community, therefore having a tremendous impact on the whole-child.

When all of these components are in place in our school buildings, students can’t help but feel engaged in their learning.

For more information on the ASCD Whole Child Tenet of Engaged, please visit ASCD Whole Child Tenet: Engaged.


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Making the Case for the Whole Child

Why is now the time to advocate for the whole child? Common sense and research tell us that children must be healthy to achieve at high levels. Yet, at a time when 35% of low-income preschoolers are overweight or obese, 40% of elementary schools have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess, and a time when 38% of U.S. students report always feeling safe at school, and only 17 states have anti- bullying statutes, should we say anymore? Find out more at the Whole Child Resource Clearinghouse that can help you make the case for the whole child. Visit CLICK HERE.

ASCD InfoBrief on the Whole Child

Are you familiar with the five principles of the Whole Child Compact? What existing policies and practices support the goal of healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged children? Where does policy and practice fall short of the whole child mission? The latest issue of Infobrief answers these questions while reviewing the objectives of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative, promising practices from around the world, and the immense work left to be done. Read more at CLICK HERE.

Starting the Whole Child Conversation

To facilitate informal group conversations about the whole child, ASCD has launched the Whole Child Community Conversations Project, which enables groups to explore how to work together to support this important initiative. Two versions of the facilitator's guide are available. One targets local community engagement and the other, student engagement. Learn how to engage your community in a conversation about educating the whole child. For more information and to download the facilitator's guides, visit CLICK HERE.

Is your school leading the way to ensure that each child is Healthy, Safe, Supported,Challenged and Engaged?

Consider applying for South Carolina ASCD's Whole Child Award. You can find our 2018-2019 Whole Child Application here


About the authors:

Kelli Coons, currently serves as an Instructional Technology Coach in Spartanburg District One -

Austin Greene serves as a Title I Math Academic Specialist for Greenville County Schools -



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