Our lives are often filled with appointments, schedules and the general hustle and bustle of the day. So how do we find time to sit down and truly reconnect with those around us?
At the beginning of the school year we noticed how the children in our Leslie Frost School Age program were affected by the transition from school to our program. We observed a disconnect among the children, as well as with the educators. We wondered how we could connect with the children more deeply and in a way that would provide them the opportunity to connect more with each other. Our hope was to set aside time for all of us to join together to share ideas and stories, ask each other questions and build upon values such as respect and compassion.
These thoughts soon transpired into a routine of coming together daily, which we now refer to as Community Circle. It started out as an opportunity to get to know one another, however, it has developed into a time for the children to share events, important aspects of their lives and so much more!
We noticed a few weeks into our routine that some of the children were struggling with the time we were spending sitting and listening to each other. How we could facilitate this challenge of engaging the children’s physical selves while keeping our valued group time together? The children needed an outlet to burn some energy as soon as they entered our program. As a group we brainstormed sports and game ideas and put them in a jar. Now, as soon as we enter the gym we draw an activity from the jar, set a timer and we play the game. When the timer goes off, the children come right to Community Circle to meet. Having that openness and flexibility within our own programs is so important. As educators, it allows for us to recognize the children’s needs and work with them to find solutions. It has also been a great opportunity to demonstrate and live within the democratic culture that we value in our organization.
We initially started meeting on the carpet, but we were concerned this might be undermining the importance and significance of our meetings. Recently we have begun to all sit around a big table or make a circle with our chairs, rather than meet on the carpet. We have noticed with great interest a change within the group after making this small but powerful shift. We often refer to our Community Circles as “big, important meetings”, so the children connect them to the “important meetings” parents often refer to. The children are exhibiting a real sense of pride and we sense they feel they are part of something very special and influential within our program. The deep connections our Community Circle continues to create far surpasses what we were originally aiming for.
Another interesting and profound outcome is the increasing number of children approaching us, asking if they can lead Community Circle, demonstrating that the children feel valued, safe and respected, and have a sense of belonging. We hope that Community Circle will give the children the confidence to further explore new endeavors and try new things.
Recently a seven year old boy who is often extremely shy and quiet, gently approached us for the first time to ask if he could lead Community Circle that afternoon. We were so excited and proud of this child for taking a brave leap to explore this new leadership role. We could immediately see the confidence he gained through the experience.
We value the time we spend at Community Circle, being together and truly connecting. It is a wonderful way to get to know each other better and has provided an opportunity for everyone to slow down and regroup after a busy day. Our school-agers have welcomed this addition to our routine. The leadership opportunities being utilized daily are wonderful to witness as children eagerly share what is important to them. Observing the children strengthening their leadership skills through our daily Community Circle has been incredibly rewarding. Not only are we building stronger relationships, we’re growing and strengthening our own small community.
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