Each week I facilitate the creation of a community agreement with my group of students. In this particular Communi-Tea lesson, students discuss what community means to them and how they can contribute to our team that week. Students write down a personal skill or characteristic that they identify with on the agreement and later an actionable way to contribute to the community. The final Communi-Tea agreement is a living document that can be adapted throughout your time with your students as the group’s needs change!
The students I have worked with are often drawn to the garden naturally — whether it’s seeing a herb they are familiar with or just the lure of being able to harvest food, the garden is fertile grounds for experiential education. Furthermore, gardens are a great way to support discussions on what it means to be a part of a community. When the students contribute their garden herbs to the pitcher of water it clearly symbolizes group participation. This type of lesson is versatile and is also a great way to gather students together around a table to discuss how they are a part of a community. I will be interested in carrying this idea of gardens as sites of community building with me as I continue to work within garden classrooms.
Communi-Tea Agreement Lesson
Supplies : a large piece of paper that can be decorated with a drawn tea cup for each student and a large tea-pot, colorful markers, pitcher of hot water, cups, and garden herbs.
Ask each student to think about one characteristic or skill that they identify themselves with. Once everyone has contributed, have students gather herbs in their harvest baskets (one cupped hand’s worth of herbs) from the garden to create their very own tea. Ask students to add their herbs one at a time, and as they add their herbs to the Communi-Tea they should say how they are going to contribute to the community during the week. Be sure you add what they say (action) to the tea-pot in the Communi-Tea poster, and their individual characteristic or skill to the drawn tea cups.
Adaptation of the Community Agreement Lesson as found on the IW Wiki http://wiki.islandwood.org/index.php?title=Community_Agreement
Thinking about being a “guide on the side,” what was a success, challenge and what might it mean for future lessons?
I have just completed my first solo-week of teaching here at IslandWood. I will admit that, as a newbie, I was primarily caught up in logistical matters and concerned about cooperative discipline throughout much of the week. That said, I witnessed a few moments where I felt the lesson was being further instigated by the students themselves!
While at Blakely Harbor, I presented Team Pond with an opportunity to write their very own perspective story. I had allowed for 15 minutes of exploration time at the beach in the beginning, and during which time the kids had made their very own crabitat. I hadn’t planned on a crabitat lesson, but here it was in the form of a circular depression made in the sand, complete with a bottle cap full of water, some seaweed, and a few decorative feathers.
After the 15 minutes were up I gave them the prompt to write a story from the perspective of a crab. They were instantly attracted to this form of imaginative thinking. I hadn’t seen them so focused until then! I prompted them further with questions like, what are some of the characters in your crab’s story? How does your crab feel about humans? One kid likened us to “titans,” I asked why, and he said well just imagine how big we are to those crabs! If I noticed a student finishing up the story I gave them some markers to illustrate their crab story.
Overall, I believe the crab perspective story that I presented encouraged them to use some emphathy that they had already gathered from their experiences with their crabitat and to think about the environmental factors that affect crabs. As I listened to the stories I was very impressed by how creative the students got, and how willing they were to share and listen to one another. I will definitely use the power of perspective in other lessons, as I believe kids really enjoy having an opportunity to use creative writing and science together.
This week’s mindset moment began on the teams course. My co-instructor this week had just finished briefing the kids on how to use the “Islands” course, when two boys quickly stepped up to be the first ones to try. After their unsuccessful attempt, three girls eagerly followed suit having just spent their time on the side lines strategizing. One of the girls who volunteered her efforts had been an enthusiastic participant in nearly every activity up to that point. Amid the constant onslaught of voices around her, she took the lead and quickly stepped across the gang plank. Once in the middle, the construction failed and she stepped off into the mulch. “I feel so stupid!” she cried. Dejected, she ran away from the group and toward a tree where she sat alone crying. Barely containing her extreme disappointment in herself, she looked up at me and continued to talk about herself in a negative way.
This was a rather low point in the day as you might imagine. I struggled to find words to help her at this point. Remembering the voice of a mentor, I feebly attempted to turn the situation on its head. “You were so courageous to volunteer! Would you try it again if you had the chance?” I asked. She waved off my first comment, but to the second she nodded. I can’t help but feel like that would have been a great opportunity to interject with a comment on growth mindset, a person can change how they think about themselves with practice.
This scenario perhaps reminded me of where I stand at the moment as a potential role model and instructor. I would like very much to be able to help students change their perceptions of themselves by very subtly offering up clues into the growth mindset. I am thankful that kids can speak so plainly, if asked the right questions. Like any new mindset, I will try in the future SOP weeks to look for moments to strengthen my practice.