Our school is located on a road where there are several independent and faith-based schools. Administrators cultivate strong relationships among the neighboring schools. They meet regularly; security issues are discussed with local police departments; students work on projects and play sports together. Collaboration is a leadership disposition modeled by all stakeholders among the schools.
Student learning extends beyond the walls of the classroom and into the entire school community. Our senior students are expected to exhibit “active citizenship.” Students volunteer for responsibilities in the school, according to their particular interest. Activities include intermediate grade students eating and supervising in primary classrooms during lunch breaks, making morning announcements on the public-address system of school activities for the day, completing the daily attendance checks, organizing games and activities during breaks and being socially responsible mentors for younger students.
Recently during our week of Random Acts of Kindness/Chesed (RAC), students partnered with their counterparts from Az-Zahraa Muslim School to learn from each other and assist the less fortunate in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Food parcels were prepared and handed out by our senior students. Students saw firsthand the issues of poverty, addiction and loneliness that some members of society confront.
The RAC week included organizing of board games in our gymnasium as younger and older students participated in cooperative play, yoga sessions for both our primary and intermediate students, and a Grandparents Tea with students in aprons serving their elders, culminating in an Israeli dance performance.
Other events this year demonstrating social responsibility included raising money through a flower sale to benefit BC Children’s Hospital, and serving muffins and coffee to parents as they drop off their children. These activities engage students and their families with our school and in turn allow us all to be part of a wider school community beyond the classroom.
A community garden has been a further connection to our school community. Students learn to prepare the soil, seed, water and care for various plants. This garden leads to environmental and ecological discussions as the soil is toiled. The harvesting and food preparation of various food products are further opportunities for engaging students. Our master gardeners have a leadership disposition that inspires others and have brought various generations together as learners.
The organization of these events requires the active participation of staff members, support staff and the parent community. Students learn by example, and this modeling of community engagement builds student engagement. Students see, hear and feel these connections.
Students are part of a wider community beyond their own classroom, as members of the entire school community, and then again as members of society as a whole. A leadership disposition of service to others underlies student leadership programs that reflect the Jewish values that we model, support and learn at our school.