Ah, the start of a new school year at The Village School. Sharpened pencils itching to write, blank notebooks waiting to be filled, learners hungry for ever more challenging lessons…and a brand new set of rules to create. These aren’t just any rules. Every year, learners in each studio—not the guides—decide what guidelines they will follow for the year. How will they treat each other? How will they treat their studio?
In Spark, creation of the year’s contract is a very thorough process. Guides set aside time in Session 1 for the learners to brainstorm a set of promises they want to follow. The children take this quite seriously, offering suggestions for ways to make their studio safe, fun, and peaceful. Then they vote on which rules they will adopt, and which they won’t.
In large part, they come up with many of the same rules we adults might: be kind, be honest, and don’t run, hit or scream. But inevitably, they come up with some unexpected gems: be thankful, teach each other, listen to each other, and talk to one another.
Who would have thought these things were important to our youngest learners?
Through these suggestions, learners are shaping their own space. Given the agency to come up with their own guidelines, they become more invested, taking on more ownership of the studio and taking the rules that much more seriously.
During Friday project time in Spark this week, learners wrote down their rules, painted cards, and assembled their contract. Soon they will sign it and hang it on the wall. Throughout the year, the contract will serve as a constant reminder of the standards they set for themselves at the beginning of the year. They can refer to it often, holding each other accountable and constantly examining their own actions to see if they measure up. Mistakes are expected and OK, so long as they learn from each one.
Creation of a fresh, new contract sets the tone for the year. It also furthers learner independence and leadership. Above all, it fosters a sense of right and wrong. The goal is for learners to do the right thing because they want to, not because an adult told them they have to.
You can see the final product at Exhibition next week. Learners will be more than a little proud to show it off!