Strong community is the foundation for social emotional learning.
We are not islands. As human beings, we need each other to achieve our greater purpose. Creating an environment of community in and outside of school, is one of the most important things adults can give to children.
I like to begin the topic of community with a guided visualization. Students are prompted to imagine a party and all of the important people that they would see in the room. I encourage students to think of people they see on a daily basis (bus driver, teacher, classmates, siblings, parents) and also people they only see one in awhile (extended family, family friends).
Then, students write their name in the center and fill in the rings with all of the community members they imagined in the visualization. Usually, students will write immediate family in the inner circle and work outwards to place acquaintances in the outer circle. However, I try to keep these directions open ended to allow for various family structures.
For an added element, I had the students watercolor on their circles. We have talked a lot about color and how different colors represent different emotions. I encouraged them to find colors that made them feel safe and supported.
After that, I hung these works of art in their lockers. The intent is that everyday they are reminded that they are surrounded by many people that provide love and support.
Finally, we went outside, in our Peace Garden, and did silent Tree Circle. Students begin by each finding tree pose. Using cuing language found in our Move Mindfully® Card Deck. Then, they reach out with an open, flat hand and press into their neighbors palm. Sometimes students will want to interlace, or hold hands, but I prompt pressure with an open, flat hand. This pose embodies the idea of support. Push too hard, and you both tumble. Push too light, and your neighbors do not feel grounded. However, if both partners can provide the same amount of pressure, it creates an incredibly stable base. As a circle, if just one partnership is not supported, it impacts everyones balance. We are all connected.
Looking around the circle at the different faces, these children represent different races, different languages, different cultures… yet we are all part of the same community. A community that holds each other up.
How have you discussed community with your students? Please leave a comment.