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Sumas Elementary puts focus on “pax,” creates peaceful school environment

In Latin, Pax equates to peace. Sumas Elementary wants more pax in the school and classroom environment, leading to a concerted effort from staff to spend time talking, as classes, about behaviors they want to see more often.

With this new focus, students have noticed within their classes when they see pax leadership traits displayed and have even started to give each other “tootles,” the opposite of tattling.

“Pax makes our classroom safe and calm,” says one Sumas Elementary student. Another says, “Some things that Pax has done is we don’t need all those things on our vision anymore, because we are doing them every day.”

Kristin Carlson, third-grade teacher at Sumas, says the best compliment and feedback she receives from students is when students describe how the classroom environment feels. “Students use words like calm, safe and peaceful and this is reflected in their interactions with each other,” she says. “They treat each other with kindness and respect. I think they have truly learned some of the ‘why’ we practice pax.”

Carlson says she approached this year as a way to implement pax principles the same way she has approached academics subjects. “I wanted kids to understand why we do what we do, why we use the voice levels we use, why we don’t sit on our knees during assemblies, why we are quiet and don’t run in the hallways and how we can show respect to those around us,” she says. “We spend a lot of time reflecting on how our words and actions affect others.”

Megan Vigre, Sumas principal, says the pax momentum carries beyond the school building, encouraging parents at home to talk about what being a pax leader looks, sounds and feels like. She’d love to see students come to school prepared to show kindness during the day, both at school and at home.

“Nooksack Valley Schools takes our students’ social and emotional health very seriously and we want to work to ensure our children are safe and happy,” Vigre says. In addition to pax, Sumas students are also reading specially chosen books to focus on perspective taking, equity and kindness. Those books serve as launching points for discussions and ways to learn about bullying prevention and strategies for everyone to have a safe, supportive school.

“We used pax last year and this year we are even more kind,” says another Sumas student. “We are learning and getting better at being nice to each other.”