Orcas in the C’s at Lakeridge Elementary

four elementary school students in their school hallway
Lakeridge Elementary 1st grade Orcas who participate in the ‘Orcas in the Cs’ program.

For so many schools, it has been a tumultuous two years from school-on-a-screen to in-person learning. This is definitely the case for Lakeridge Elementary in the Renton (Washington) School District. For new 1st graders, school was in constant transition. Starting kindergarten on Zoom, they learned what it meant to be part of a classroom community through a screen. Later, when welcomed back into the school building as 1st graders for the first time in the fall of 2021, they began learning how to be part of an in-person school community.

Together with Sound Discipline and TeamRead, Lakeridge implemented a program called ‘Orcas in the Cs’ which brings together first grade educators, students, and their families to build social emotional and self-regulation skills. It also integrates 5th grade reading buddies to provide mentoring and practice literacy skills.


The name “Orcas in the Cs” comes from the Lakeridge mascot – the Orca — and from the goal to co-create Confidence, Community, and Continuity with Lakeridge students, all as part of a longstanding Lakeridge commitment to building equitable learning communities for all students.

The Orcas and the C’s program has several components that draw on student and educator strengths.



Component #1 – Student Videos

A Lakeridge Orca 1st grader demonstrates the finger breathing technique in a video shared with the Lakeridge community.

Twice a month, students co-create a video focused on social-emotional skills and self-regulation practice. For example, one video taught about listening skills, and students shared how they feel when they are truly listened to. After watching it, a classmate shared with her guardian in the family breakout group, “That’s how I want you to listen to me!”

Here are other examples of the amazing student videos:



Component #2 – Family Learning and Connection Sessions

Every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, Sound Discipline facilitates 30-minute Family Learning and Connection (FLC) sessions where students teach emotional self-regulation skills to 1st grade families. Sessions bring together parents, guardians, teachers, staff, and Sound Discipline facilitators to learn from our valued teachers: the students.


In addition to the FLC sessions, several individual families have an opportunity to take a deeper dive by meeting with their student’s teacher, principal, and Sound Discipline team. Teachers may invite a family to participate, or families may initiate by reaching out for additional support.


These sessions are an opportunity to highlight a student’s strengths, and to share ideas for possible supports families can work with at home. Instead of hearing from their student’s school when there is a problem, this proactive approach allows families and students to feel seen and supported by the school community and strengthens the connection between the family and school.


Component #3 – Reading Buddies

Connection is step one in learning – enter TeamRead 5th grade reading buddies. Lakeridge and TeamRead are working together to train 5th grade reading buddy mentors for 1st grade students. Lakeridge 5th grade students will soon be paired with their 1st grade buddy and begin meeting weekly on Friday mornings to engage in a routine that involves regulation, reading together, and engaging in activities to increase reading comprehension.


A broader culture and pedagogy for social emotional learning

Building an equitable learning culture in schools takes a deep and long-term commitment by leadership. Every adult in the building must practice a mindset and apply a pedagogy that is trauma-aware, strengths-based, and solution focused.


In our eight-year partnership with Lakeridge, Sound Discipline, educators, students, and families have been part of designing and implementing approaches that support a rooted and data-driven approach to social emotional learning. Our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process is a prime example of that. This year, 1st grade teachers began using our MTSS screener to assess social-emotional skills. They meet every 3-5 weeks with their support team, including the principal, counselor, and SEL coach. The team determines specific interventions that can be implemented for the whole class (tier 1 interventions) and tracks the progress being made.


The Screener prompts educators to explore more deeply the specific lagging skills for individual students and uses a menu of interventions and supports to customize plans (tier 2 interventions). This process increases focus on skill building, leverages community and individual strengths, and creates a structure for adults to learn and support one another.


‘Orcas in the C’s’ is another co-created offering that puts student experience at the center of their learning and development. Once again, thank you Lakeridge staff and students and TeamRead for the opportunity to learn together and do something that is truly responsive during this difficult and disruptive pandemic.


If you’d like to learn more about our MTSS Training and Tools, or any other aspect of our work, or if you know someone who would, please contact us at info@belongpartners.org or 206-782-1595.


Roshaé Lowe and Kayla Blau are Sound Discipline Facilitators. Stacy Lappin is the Sound Discipline Director of Program.