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The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model (WSCC) – Whole Child to WSCC Back in 2007 ASCD – the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development – a leading U.S. and global education association, convened a group of leading education, health, and youth experts to reevaluate and reinvent what an effective education system could and should look like. It began with then Executive Director Dr. Gene Carter asking this question: “If decisions about education policy and practice started by asking what works for the child, how would resources — time, space, and human — be arrayed to ensure each child’s success? If the student were truly at the center of the system, what could we achieve?” (ASCD, 2007 p.4)

If the child were truly at the center, and not the testing regime, nor the budget, or even the bus timetable, then what would school look like? What would services that support that child and their learning look like and how would they interact with the school? Rather than being a patchwork of services, supports, and community organizations it could be a unified, coordinated, and beneficial system of supports to aid learning, growth, and development of the whole child.

The launch of the Whole Child Initiative began with the release of the ASCD publication, The Learning Compact Redefined, (ASCD, 2007) which outlined the context and focus of the now decade long approach around the child.

If the whole child were truly at the center of each educational decision… we would create learning conditions that enable all children to develop all of their gifts and realize their fullest potential. We would enable children to reconnect to their communities and their own diverse learning resources, and we would deeply engage each child in learning. Finally, if the child were at the center, we would integrate all the ways children come to know the natural world, themselves, and one another, so that they can authentically take their place in creating a better future for all (ASCD, 2007 p.2).

ASCD and many schools have long been supporters of the traditional Coordinated School Health (CSH) Model developed by Drs. Lloyd Kolbe and Diane Allensworth in 1987. It was a model of eight key components – Health Education; Physical Education; Health Services; Family/Community Involvement; School Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers; Nutrition Services; Healthy School Environment; Health Promotion for Staff – that outlined what supports were needed to ensure the environment was both healthy and supportive. The CSH Model has for the past quarter century been utilized as the primary model for outlining and highlighting desirable supports and services. However, the CSH Model never gained widespread traction inside the educational community to ensure that each child, in each school, and in each community, was being catered to and learning in a safe, healthy, and supportive environment. When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the idea of reworking the traditional CSH Model in 2012 ASCD jumped at the opportunity.

The model developed and launched in 2014 was named the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model, and was the result of 18 months of conversations, collaborations, and convenings of leading education, health, and social service experts. It was named primarily Whole School as that is the focus of the model – a whole school approach that expands beyond the gym and nurse’s office and into each classroom and hallway. Whole Community – as it aims to draw in and utilize the resources, expertise, and services of the entire community – not solely placing responsivity on the local PTA or afterschool clubs. And Whole Child because at its core it both literally and figuratively places the child at the center of the equation.

The WSCC Model aims to align the sectors of education and health and provide a platform for policies that span both to be developed. For too long there have been too many policies which prevent or hinder, as opposed to aiding, collaboration. Every adult in the school setting should view themselves as responsible for the health, well-being, and education of each child. While some individuals and agencies have specific expertise and knowledge (e.g., nurses, social workers, counsellors, and psychologists), this does not mean that others are not responsible for developing safe, supportive, learning environments – environments which are both physically and emotionally safe and supportive. The WSCC Model brings communities and partners together to use the model as a starting point for discussing and planning how to best develop a cohesive, collaborative approach to learning and health.

Each of us plays a role in ensuring that school environments are conducive to learning, growth, and development. We play roles in developing positive school climates and in being there for students.

Whole Child and the Supports Needed

The WSCC Model takes the original Whole Child Tenets – Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported, and Challenged – and arrays the services and resources required to ensure a healthy, safe, and supportive environment around them. By highlighting these specific school health components, the WSCC Model shines attention on how the whole school and whole community can help to ensure an optimal learning environment.

As defined by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs there are fundamentals that we all need to not only survive but thrive. Maslow laid these fundamentals out in A Theory of Human Motivation (Maslow, 1943) as Physiological and Safety followed by Love/ Belonging. A healthy and safe environment is fundamental as the child who is unhealthy cannot learn, just as the child who is fearful cannot fully engage. In the school setting even the best curricula or most highly rated program will fail if the child is not healthy and does not feel safe.

The WSCC Model (see figure) outlines the ten school health components (blue) needed to ensure that health and safety are highlighted. Two of the original CSH components were split up to make four new components, primarily because each one is distinct and deserves its own focus. The original Parent & Community Involvement component was separated into Community Involvement and Family Engagement because a school can communicate with parents without connecting to their broader community, just as a school can develop processes related to community services without engaging parents and families. Ideally schools should be doing both.

Similarly, the original CSH component Healthy School Environment was split into Physical Environment and Social and Emotional Climate for the same broad rationale. A school which has removed asbestos from the physical environment does not necessarily have a great school climate, and even if every classroom has developed a special and emotionally safe learning environment it cannot make up for a building that is unsafe. Each of the ten school health components are necessary – across the whole school and into the whole community – for providing the best environment for our youth.

The ten components were arrayed around the five tenets of a Whole Child approach to education, (see figure) to highlight and showcase the common issues and targets of both educators and health providers/ services. This alignment was highlighted with the addition of wording between the tenets and components – “coordinating policy, process, and practice” for the common goal of “improving learning and improving health.” It is a call for greater alignment and codevelopment of policies that aid learning and health processes and outcomes.

WSCC image was produced by ASCD 2014

The entire model has been placed inside the community as the school and local community should be working in harmony where and whenever possible. And lastly the center of attention – the child – is placed in the middle to remind all of us who work with and for youth to array our services and resources around that child.

WSCC and Green Schools

The green schools movement exemplifies the best of the WSCC Model by putting the child at the center of their school, their local community, and the physical environment. When children are at the center of their schools and the broader environment, the whole school becomes a learning environment and models the roles that we all can play in creating healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly schools. We learn best when we are actively engaged in learning that we find meaningful, which often has direct correlation back to our communities and involves action, movement, and collaboration. Just as was stated in 2007’s The Learning Compact Redefined, schools and communities must work in unison and in activities that have direct meaning to their members, especially their youth.

Green Ribbon School Award winner, has aligned its focus on a healthy environment and sustainability – including its school garden which produces fresh produce as well as an outdoor classroom – back into its focus on the WSCC Model, specifically the components on Nutrition, Environment, and Services and Physical Environment. The development of a standalone Physical Environment component alone cannot be underestimated. While all schools should ensure that their environments are free from toxins and dangerous chemicals, the physical environment can boost and aid learning by ensuring that there is fresh air, natural light, and room to move, collaborate, and interact. Taking activities outside and into the local playgrounds, parks, and gardens is the simplest way to do this and schools that focus on the green-ness of their environments stand to benefit not only in the health of their students but in establishing settings which aid and actively promote learning.

WSCC and Continued Growth

Schools and communities committed to educating the whole child foster engagement with and a sense of connection for students to the school community. Together they provide a variety of opportunities for meaningful student involvement, interest-based activities, and personalized responses to students learning needs. Often these opportunities are framed through experiential learning that allows young people to practice the skills, knowledge, and behaviors required for participation in society (ASCD, 2007 p.15).

Since its release in 2014 as the next evolution of CSH, the WSCC Model has been adopted by over 25 states across the U.S. and has gained supporters and backers from across a range of agencies, organizations, and sectors. It has been written into state level legislation in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Vermont and has been utilized by over 60 large school districts including San Francisco, San Diego, and Orange County in California; Pasadena, Dallas, and Fort Worth in Texas; Denver and Boulder in Colorado; and along the east coast from Boston, Massachusetts down to Miami Dade, Florida.

Schools and school districts have been moving to align the focuses of the WSCC Model and the green schools movement. Heritage Elementary School in Colorado’s Douglas County School District, a 2016 U.S. Department of Education

Buffalo Public Schools in New York, for example, has used the WSCC Model as the underpinning for both its educational and health services framework. Since 2014, the model has been utilized as a common reference point during policy discussions and planning and professional development offerings to ensure that policies and processes are aligned or preferably integrated. The model has been implemented across all 58 schools in the district to ensure continuity and ongoing collaboration. At the state level, Colorado, Florida, and West Virginia have used the model to ensure that key stakeholders that serve children and youth are brought in to discuss statewide plans and use of resources. The model has provided the impetus to make sure all agencies and services are in communication and engaged in continued discussion and ongoing planning.

The new model redirects attention onto the ultimate focus of the two sectors—the child. It emphasizes a schoolwide approach rather than one that is subject- or location-specific, and it acknowledges the position of learning, health, and the school as all being a part, and reflection, of the local community. Efforts to address the educational and health needs of youth should be a school wide endeavor as opposed to being confined to a subject or sector. Rather than being an initiative owned by one teacher, nurse, department, or profession, this model embraces a whole school approach, with every adult and student playing a role in the growth and development of self, peers, and the school overall. Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That is what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement is really all about. More than merely a way to boost achievement or academics, the whole child approach views collaboration between learning and health as fundamental. The development of the whole child is more than the acquisition of knowledge or skills, behavior or character; it is all of these. To find out more about WSCC wscc To find out more about Whole Child www.ascd. org/wholechild

Works Cited Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2007). The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Maslow, Abraham. (1943). “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

About the Author

Sean Slade ( or @SeanTSlade) is the Senior Director of Global Outreach at ASCD, a global mission-driven education association. During his more than two decades in education, he has spoken and written extensively on topics related to the whole child and health and well-being, and he has been at the forefront of promoting and using school climate, connectedness, resilience, and a youth development focus for school improvement. He has written for the Washington Post and Huffington Post; published with ASCD, Routledge, and Human Kinetics; and is an SEL expert for NBC Education Nation.

Note: This story was originally published in the Summer Edition of the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly and re-published here for our community with permission. Consider subscribing the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly. It provides readers with a current snapshot of the green schools movement. Feature articles cover topics ranging from school environmental health programs and outdoor learning to environmental justice and equity.