Every Monday at lunch, students in grades 1–4 gather in a classroom on the second floor of the Mansion to problem-solve ways to improve their community.
The Community Committee, comprising two representatives from each class, provides students the opportunity to put empathy-based design into practice and make a positive impact.
The students identify issues facing their community, brainstorm solutions, implement action plans, and measure the efficacy of their work.
During the first two years of the project, students addressed issues related to the Café, bathrooms, and outdoor spaces in the Lower School. Now in its third year, the Community Committee, moderated by second-grade teacher Sam Modest, first-grade teacher Diana Friedman, and SEL teacher Lisa Hinshelwood, is focused on examining how students can make our school feel more welcoming for new classmates, families, and visitors to campus.
“My motivation for being involved is rooted in participatory action research. I view the Community Committee and the work they do as a way to empower students to improve their own community,” explained Sam.
This fall, the Community Committee generated overwhelming interest. As a way to engage as many students as possible, the faculty moderators suggested creating community jobs to empower students throughout the year. The committee members ran with the idea — immediately diving into the task of need finding and data collection through surveys and conversations about their own observations of life at Nueva. They made and hung posters around the Lower School, introducing themselves and their work.
Currently, students are reviewing survey responses from over 20 faculty and staff who were asked about the biggest issues and problems they observe across campus. The committee members are using color-coded categories to organize feedback according to the geography of campus.
Some of the problems the committee has uncovered so far include: garbage and balls left on the lawn after recess, spills and dishes left behind in the Café, and multiple pieces of clothing and water bottles going missing during the day.
The Community Committee will soon present its findings at the Lower School community meeting. The students are currently putting together a proposal for Lower School Head Megan Terra, outlining their suggestions for the creation of new jobs. The proposal will include a list of jobs, the reason they are needed, and how the adults on campus will be involved.
Reflecting on their work so far, Diana said, “Students are learning by experience that even a simple idea can be really powerful.”
November 22, 2017