4 Innovative Ways to Build Community Within Your School
Working at the middle school level provides educators with the unique opportunity to unify students from multiple elementary schools within a school district. The blending of student bodies from the various schools ensures that students will be exposed to new classmates and friends, as well as new experiences and perspectives.
Teachers, administrators, and school staff can work together to create and promote an atmosphere of safety, respect, and unity within the school. And in the process of working to unify their students, the staff bonds, as well. That’s a win-win for everyone!
The following activities and events were put together by the faculty of a middle school with a student population of approximately 900 students. By implementing these practices early in the school year, it is hoped that they will proactively foster a safe and cooperative school environment while also preventing bullying.
On our school’s “Unity Day,” all staff members are invited to eat lunch in the cafeteria with the students. The guidance department sets up tables with tablecloths and centerpieces, and adorns each with a card full of discussion questions meant to spark conversation among the kids and their teachers. It’s a great way for students and staff to get to know each other outside of the classroom.
Want an extra dose of school spirit? Encourage everyone attending the lunch to wear school colors, flooding the cafeteria with a visual display of unity and school pride.
Hawks High Fives
During the morning announcements on any calendar date ending in the number five, our principal reads the names of students who have earned a Hawks High Five—a simple but meaningful form of positive reinforcement themed after our school mascot (a hawk). Staff members award Hawks High Fives whenever they witness a student going above and beyond to help another student. In addition to public recognition, recipients also get a Hawks High Five wristband.
“Who Can You Go To?” Cards
Give students a small card on which they write down the name of a staff member they can talk to if they witness or experience bullying. Staff members then receive their respective cards and write a brief response to the student, reiterating their willingness to help whenever needed.
Similar in concept to speed dating, “speed friending” involves students getting to know multiple classmates through brief, guided interactions. Have the students form two facing rows, and give them one minute to answer a discussion question (that you provide) before rotating. Keep the discussion questions light and fun, and centered around topics like friendship and social goals.
The ultimate aim of these activities is to help students form new relationships, which are essential for a strong school community. Try one method, or try them all—just remember that bringing your students together should be FUN for both you and the kids.