Our community is at the core of everything we do, and at the heart of our biggest accomplishments as a school. Our network of educators, students and parents not only care about their school, but the greater community that surrounds it. Each member reflects our values of compassion, imagination and critical thinking through their involvement, support and desire to help raise thoughtful, compassionate leaders that can effect change. These values are evident in the classroom, where our teachers work to foster a sense of empathy and compassion in our students at every age level. The following are just a few examples of how we build a sense of caring and community amongst our students:
Taking on responsibility.
For the last few years, Joy’s Kindergarten class has expanded their community by bringing in a very special member –an animal! Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Farm Animal Project has proven to be an effective (and very cute) teaching tool for these Ks. Each year, the students vote on the type of animal they would like to care for, then discuss what those animals need to thrive. This year, the Ks have chosen to adopt a Sheep named Summer, and they have begun taking steps to care for him (yes, it's a boy!) How can you care for an animal that is so far away? This is a discussion the class has as a group, brainstorming the different resources the animal needs to live happily and healthily. The group decides that even if they don’t have the animal in class to care for, they can raise money to get him the resources she needs. Joy says that this project allows students to “take it on as a responsibility and share it with their parents.” This is evident each morning as students proudly drop coins into the collection jar, and urge their parents to contribute.
The Ks stay connected with their animal through correspondence with a representative from Farm Sanctuary. Questions about Summer are sent and lengthy answers received; giving students a greater sense of who their animal is. Questions about family members, friends and play habits are of the highest interest for the animal’s young caregivers as they begin building a connection with their adopted sheep. For the Ks, taking care of an animal gives them a sense of responsibility and pride. The confidence they gain from successfully caring for Summer will translate into their academics as they begin to take ownership of their learning experience.
Becoming a leader.
As leaders of the community, our 10s embody this responsibility in a number ways, including mentoring our 2s students. The Buddies program pairs each 10s student with a 2s student over the course of the year. As they learn and play together they build an important bond and learn from one another. The 10s take on the role of mentor and explore what it means to give back to a community that has supported them throughout their time at the school. The 2s look up to their buddies as their mentors model behaviors that they will grow to take on as they move through the grades. While the 10s might be getting ready to leave for middle school, the Buddies program is an opportunity for them to understand what it means to leave a legacy at the school. The 2s students that they influence will go on to become mentors themselves, drawing from their experience they had with their former “buddy.” The Buddies program is yet another opportunity to demonstrate leadership; a trait that they will further build as they take on their service learning challenges.
Each year, the 10s work together on a project aimed giving back to Corlears’ sister school, the Co-Ed School for Eagles in Haiti. This partnership allows students to reflect on how they have benefit from a Corlears education and explore ways they can help others. Last year, the 10s spearheaded fundraising efforts for the school, with the goal of providing desks for students who otherwise would go without. Ultimately, the students were able to raise enough money for 10 new desks! This year, the efforts are beginning even earlier as Elisse and her students have been working on designing a logo for their project and will begin raising funds by selling bookmarks at this year’s book fair.
Our newly completed rooftop garden is perhaps one of the most vivid examples of the power of our community. Through the ideation, support, contributions and very hard work of our parents and faculty, we were able to make our dream of a rooftop garden a reality. Much more than just a beautiful space, this garden will allow us to enhance our science programming and provide even more hands-on projects for Corlears students. Application is essential to the learning process at Corlears. Students do not only study a variety of topics but they experience them first hand; honing their skills and gaining a deeper understanding of everything they do in the classroom. The rooftop garden holds endless possibilities for enriching our curriculum and incorporating a health and wellness aspect to our work.
The strength of our community is evident each and every day at the school. Our network of educators, students and parents continue to find new ways to keep one another connected, informed and inspired. The constant communication between parents and educators not only creates a nurturing and supportive learning environment but also serves as a model for how to successfully collaborate and work toward a common goal. The closeness of our community is an undeniable strength and only serves to enhance the learning experience for our students.