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One of the most important things we administrators do is to look at our various programs and traditions from time to time to determine how effective they are in light of our mission and core beliefs.
This summer, Beth and I discussed the history of and our visions for the Bixby Student Council. We quickly agreed that developing a more service-oriented focus, along with a more egalitarian approach to determining membership, would be more consistent with instilling our values of empathy and responsibility and cultivating critical thinking. Among the strengths of student council we wanted to maintain were the multi-age group, the chance for children and teachers to get to know each other in a different context, the development of student “voice,” and the real opportunities for leadership to emerge among the students. Colleen eagerly joined Beth and me as a co-sponsor.
We opened membership to all-comers to move away from the perception that the student council elections were more of a popularity contest than a search for students who genuinely wanted to join. We asked for a membership commitment from students and parents a few weeks in when we had had a chance to lay out some of our ideas for the year. And we are open to more students joining at any time!
Our first project, which we are just finishing up, is a “traditional” one – determining which non-profit will receive the proceeds from one of my favorite days of the year, the Bixby Bazaar! Watch for posters around the school announcing our recipient, The American Red Cross, along with encouragement to “round up” when paying for one’s Bazaar purchases. (Parents can contribute too, but it is not expected.)
Our process began by dividing the council members into three teams: local, national, and international. Then, after a quick introduction to what makes a non-profit a non-profit, (including Bixby School), along with how to identify a non-profit on the internet, the groups were off to do their research and create a list of three non-profits using the organizations’ websites. The researchers looked for information on each organization’s longevity and how much overhead v. money spent on their target groups on GuideStar.org and GiveWell.org. This was not always the easiest or the most interesting work! But, to their credit, the children hung with it, and after presentations by each group, they narrowed the council’s choices to three: The American Red Cross, Attention Homes, and The Boulder Shelter for the Homeless (the latter two are local!). The three groups then presented these choices to the group times and all students present voted. The American Red Cross won by two votes! Along the way, we saw some bonds forming, some leadership emerging, and the awareness developing that doing good work takes work.
Our next project is decidedly more fun – creating decorations for the Winter Sing, which will take place on December 22. We hope you will join us that afternoon at 2:30 to celebrate the end of our fall semester and enjoy the surprise of who will be Suzy Snowflake this year!
In the spring, we will turn the development of projects over to the council members via a project process called “The Deep Dive.” I am looking forward to seeing what ideas for positive change grow from this dynamic group!
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