COMMUNITY Among the Children
Among the school’s children, there are many moments, intentional and serendipitous, when the experience of community takes place and many ways that the sense of the school’s ‘oneness’ takes hold.
It develops each morning in the lobby as children of all ages mix together, chat, or play chess before they are allowed to go upstairs at 7:45. It happens as children pass one another in the hallways. It happens when classes exchange some of their children during regularly scheduled paired lunch, or have joint class meetings. It occurs at one of the two recess periods, where three different classes play together—a different combination of classes each day of the week. It happens through the Pencil Pal Program; through Kids Helping Kids; during lower and upper level chorus rehearsals; and when the whole school does major events together. And it certainly happens when the school gathers together for community meetings, performances or celebrations.
The school has many traditions—weekly All School Meeting is one of the most important. Routinely we have shares from three or four classes. Sometimes we have a guest speaker or performer and seven times a year we have class plays. Three times a year we have a Performance Festival, when a child can recite a poem, tell a joke, play a song on an instrument, or do a somersault. In January and February, when we are talking about equity and justice throughout the school, we show and talk about two films—one for the younger children, the other for the older children.
Almost always at these meetings we sing, because singing together is fun for most children and builds a sustained sense of community. It is also memorable, and alumni at reunions have been known to break out in songs they learned many years earlier. As major school concerts draw closer, in December and again in May and June, we use our All School Meeting times for performance practices and sing together the entire time.
Every Monday, we come together for a shorter meeting at 8:50. Monday Morning Assembly is a re-gathering of the community after the weekend. We begin with a moment of silence, sing a song, listen to a talk from a faculty member about the core virtue being studied that month, hear announcements, and end with the school song.
There are many more community building-activities among the children in addition to what has already been mentioned. All are important pieces of a deliberate and sizable program designed to connect children to one another and to the wider community.
While our youngest children might not be able to define ‘community’ with any great sophistication, they know in their bones what community means because they live it.