At one of our first staff meetings this year, we had a discussion about building community in our school. What is our community? How do we see ourselves? Many of the teachers had a difficult time describing our school community. We are in a building with additions that have been attached on various levels, resulting in doors and stairs that physically separate the classrooms into small groupings of three or four to a floor. The community outside of the school is also diverse. There are few apartment buildings as well as a neighbourhood of homes, a park, and a plaza of stores.
To discover our community through student inquiry, all the classes read the book I Know Here by Laurel Croza.
We then asked the students to take a similar approach and define their community with words and representations. The results were outstanding. Every age from Kindergarten to grade 8 was able to identify what made the community unique and they presented their own perspective. To extend that sense of our community defined by student voice, we set up a literacy night at the school to showcase the student work. It included descriptive writing, drawings, 3D representations, photos and videos.
The experience was rewarding for the teachers, students, and parents of our school community. The work was meaningful and the children were engaged. It was a topic that was accessible to all and promoted equity throughout our school. The children were also able to share new insight and point of view with us, the educators.