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PAX program bringing peace to school

Kids at Nespelem Elementary know what a spleem is. It's what you're not supposed to do.

A pax, on the other hand, is what you are supposed to do.

Those two concepts, and those labels, are part of a new game at the school that is changing not just classrooms, but migrating into the larger community, too, some say. And it's giving students a new tool to help with school and life.

The PAX Good Behavior Game is making a difference in the school, helping kids learn how to behave appropriately and learn to focus on their own actions, rather than reacting to others. The word pax is Latin for peace.

Sidney Dick, a 13-year-old eighth-grader who has attended the school since kindergarten, said she now feels more comfortable, even safer, in the school that has been using the system since last spring. "It's improved our school," she said.

"PAX has made this school better and definitely more fun," agreed LoRinda Richardson, also an eighth-grader and student at the school since pre-school. And the kids are far nicer now, she said.

It's not magic, but it is a deceptively simple application of behavioral science, applied in a subtle and sophisticated way that helps kids learn to cue in on their own behavior and internalize it.

"All you have to do is say, 'I see a spleem,' and you just see them" thinking about what they might have done, said Principal Debra Pankey, who learned of the method at a conference last year. "When I heard it, it rang true for what we needed to bring here," she said.

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