MS and HS Students Lead the Way
Middle School and High School are busy spreading kindness. In the high school the Making Caring Common Committee (“MC3) plans activities and programs to strengthen character education and partners with faculty to implement these through advisory groups. Here are just a few of the many ongoing activities in the MS and HS:
- KIND Challenge - implementation phase: CDS high school students are a finalist team in the KIND Challenge launched by Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project in partnership with the KIND Foundation. CDS students began by greeting every student with smiles, hello's, candy, and music, each day for a week and have continued to do this once a week for the past several months. This is based on their theory of the Ripple Effect and "Parker's Promise" that "just a smile or an eye twinkle can be the difference between success and adversity." This is further backed up by research from Harvard University that supports a 3 degree of separation effect for kind acts which has been part of ongoing advisory discussions. The success of CDS’s KIND Challenge team was recently featured in Harvard’s MCC Newsletter.
- Circle of Concern: HS advisories have participated in raising their awareness about students’ (and teachers’) individual circles of concern and how to expand them. Comments regarding a recent Circle of Concern exercise included, "I never thought about it like that" and "Can we do this again?". Students then came up with specific action plans to expand their circles including, "learning everyone's name,” “greeting more people by name each day," and "going out of my way to interact more with people I see every day."
- Mix-It-Up is an initiative sponsored by the HS MC3 Committee to create connections and empathy across the grade levels. Mix-It-Up wrapped up its second round last week. Comments from both students and teachers included, "I made new connections" and "It definitely expanded my Circle of Concern".
- Harvard Empathy Research: For the past five weeks, 10 MS and HS teachers have been implementing specific activities to increase empathy in their classrooms as part of this research. Students have reported looking forward to those classes and through these activities have naturally increased their empathy towards others.
- MCC Research consults and actions: Since 2014 CDS has collaborated with Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As part of this work, all MS and HS students complete MCC’s school climate survey that captures students’ perceptions of school culture, climate, and safety. School leaders work with MCC team members to review survey data and to discuss strategies for responding to school challenge areas. In addition CDS faculty use the feedback provided by Harvard experts to take specific actions based on data from these annual surveys. In a recent individual consult with Harvard to review the MCC data, Luba Feigenberg, Research Director at MCC, shared that the results from CDS students’ surveys showed that our culture of caring came across loud and clear, more than any other school involved in the project! Examples of actions that have been implemented based on this survey data are expanding and discussing our anti-bullying policy with students and holding focus groups run by students leaders on topics such as, "What specific behaviors make you feel as though teachers care about you?"
This year’s school theme - CDS: Where Caring is Common – emphasizes the culture that students, faculty and administration embrace. Walking through the halls of CDS middle school and high school, it becomes obvious that much of the momentum to create a caring community is student driven. Halls and lockers are peppered with handwritten posters and sticky notes with messages of inspiration and caring.