DHS launches all-new program aimed at improving student behavior and learning experiences

This year Dickinson High School has implemented a program called SMORE Time. It's a period is geared toward mastery of essential learning.

DHS Oreos
Dickinson High School students have fun with Oreos during their newly implemented SMORES learning period.
Contributed / Dickinson Public Schools
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DICKINSON — A s'more is that campfire treat consisting of one or more toasted marshmallows and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker. At Dickinson High School the term SMORE means something altogether different — self-reliance, motivation, organization, respect and exemplary.

Theodore Schye and Randy Cranston, two of the three assistant principals at Dickinson High School, teamed up with Principal Jeff Brandt to form a new program called SMORES. The new program aims to improve student behavior through various activities and by providing them time to catch up on assignments. The 30 minute period is one that every student has four days a week.

A DHS student has fun with balloons during the SMORES period.
Contributed / Dickinson Public Schools

“This period is designed to provide timely and specific support to students working towards mastery of essential learning or who are ready to be challenged with learning beyond grade-level expectations,” Dickinson Public Schools stated in a recent Facebook post. “Last week, students in Mrs. Heiser and Mrs. Venneman's class spent their SMORE time facing off in some minute to win it games while Mrs. Pankowski's senior class enjoyed the sunshine with chalk and other fun games.”

Schye laid out the schedule.

On Mondays students are encouraged to focus on ACT test preparation, with seniors working on a community service or capstone project. Tuesdays are for vocabulary, while Thursdays are a silent reading and reflection period. On Fridays, SMORES focuses on SEL (social emotional learning).


Schye said that in years past they had an opportunity period for freshman and students struggling with low grades, but decided they wanted a new program that benefited everyone in the student body.

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“That (SEL) helps them understand how the school runs and what's expected of them,” Schye said. “During that time, we are going to start implementing more interventions where teachers can call students in who are struggling, or extensions that kids who want to be challenged a little bit more on what they're doing in the classroom, can also do some of those things during that time.”

Cranston added that SEL is also about boosting confidence, teaching students to treat each other with respect and setting goals for themselves. He noted that they’re focused on pre-emptively teaching students how to behave properly in school and mitigating the number of incidents, rather than reactively disciplining them after the fact.

“We didn't really have the time in our schedule to teach some of these things that before would have been taken out of the class time, their core elective class times to have to go over them,” Cranston said. “Now with 30 minutes built in our schedule, we have time to teach these things and focus on the kids’ social emotional aspects of their life. And then also, they understand what it means to walk on the right side of the hallway or whatever the expectation is, because we've been able to teach it.”

They also emphasized the importance of resiliency, and teaching students how to push through adversity.

DHS students play with chalk during SMORES.
Contributed / Dickinson Public Schools
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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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