Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bitten by the Bug: Good Behavior Earns Pupils Rewards

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bitten by the Bug: Good Behavior Earns Pupils Rewards

Article excerpt

Many of us would just as soon squish a bug as look at it.

But pupils at Chaney School in Richmond Heights collect bugs just as they would hoard skeeball tickets at a fun fair. The more they have, the bigger their reward.

For example, fourth-grader Diane Wu traded three bugs for a yo-yo and a friendship bracelet. She plans to use her remaining 16 bugs - tucked safely into a manila envelope - toward admission to a special pizza party.

Diane's classmate, Antonio Day, got an eraser and a neon-green pen in exchange for four bugs.

These are no ordinary beetles, ants or spiders. They're paper bugs drawn by pupils. And in this case, B-U-G doesn't mean creepy or crawly. It stands for "Being Unusually Good."

Chaney bugs are doled out by teachers, administrators and other school employees to pupils who show positive behavior. A key point in the program is that students are caught unexpectedly, says resource teacher Sheryl Heggi.

"This is not a set thing. It's not something they can predict. To get a bug, students may be walking quietly down the hall, instead of running or banging on lockers as they go. Or they might be helpful in the classroom," Heggi said. "You never know when someone is looking."

Samantha says she earned her bugs for being quiet and for doing her teacher a favor.

Other pupils said they had emptied the trash, helped classmates with assignments and held doors open for others.

Teachers look for positive reinforcement instead of punishing negative behavior. For example, in one fifth-grade classroom, the teacher awarded bugs to five pupils for neatness in a surprise desk inspection.

The bug reward system began several years ago but in the past few months it has enlarged to involve parents and businesses.

Pupils formerly exchanged bugs for privileges such as standing at the front of the line all week.

Now, pupils still can save 20 bugs and cash them in to attend an in-school pizza party, which might feature a movie or another appealing activity. But they also have an opportunity to shop in the newly opened Bug Store, which is open twice a week in a classroom. Items available at the store include school supplies, T-shirts, posters, caps, small games, playing cards, cool cups and assorted trinkets. The items are donated by nearby businesses.

The choices force the third- through sixth-graders at the school to check their priorities, Heggi said. "Do they really want to go to that party, or is there something they really want in the store?"

The bug store was conceived under a grant proposed by Progressive Youth Center, working in conjunction with the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District. Progressive Youth Center is a private, nonprofit agency that works to keep children in school.

"One of our goals was to bring the business community into the school," said Vince Estrada, a coordinator with the Progressive Youth Center. …

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