From May 23 to 25, everyone at the FIS came together, for the first time in two years, to create, collaborate, and connect during the Community Days: a first-of-its-kind initiative at our school.
“The objective was to open a space for community connections while integrating service opportunities and empowering student agency,” explains Michelle Ang, Head of Wellbeing/Grade 11-12 Counselor, who organized and led the 3-day event along with Stephanie Steinberg, Head of English/German First Language.
“At the start of the year, we started preparations in the hope that we would be able to get together in person by springtime. Following up on our previous events, we wanted to do something bigger for the whole community since we’d been missing out on many cross-grade level activities,” Mrs. Ang says.
Classroom learning at the FIS is supplemented with outdoor learning, and this was a chance to broaden this practice to a selection of activities that appeal to a whole school level.
The choice of the range of activities was left to the community. “We made an open call to students, parents, and staff, to say – do you want to lead on organizing a session? We gave them a guiding list of objectives and offered them the option to host anything that met the objectives,” Mrs. Ang describes how the format was determined.
The goal was also to get the larger community involved in the planning and execution process to make it a truly schoolwide initiative.
Something for Everyone
The offered activities ranged from 2-hour roundtable discussions to full-day tours. There were
campfires, sports, musicals, painting, coding, drumming, and museum visits to name a few. Also, workshops on subjects like film-making, podcasting, and storytelling were hosted.
The parameters were deliberately kept loose in order to encourage all creative ideas to flow freely.
The enthusiasm was palpable. Over 50 sessions were offered by a mix of students, staff, and parents.
“We had many students responding with sessions or activities they’d like to lead on. We also had some of the staff saying they’d always wanted to do this or that and it didn’t fit into the curriculum,” Mrs. Ang shares, adding that there was a lot of initiative from the community.
Feedback from the Community
“Community was at the center of this event,” Mrs. Steinberg talks about the overarching theme. “It was about who we are as a school and how we connect with each other.”
Drawing a link with the ‘Caring and Cooperative’ component of the FIS Mission, she cites examples of how students interacted. “From helping each other pull canoes in and out of the water during a field trip to building a working marble track together – students collaborated, communicated, and socialized across grade levels in a way that they had never done before,” Mrs. Steinberg reflects.
Mrs. Ang also talks about the feedback being positive, further adding that the teachers got a chance to interact with colleagues they don’t normally work with and get a deeper understanding of each others’ respective roles. “It was a lot of effort on a lot of colleagues’ parts,” she says, “sometimes requiring stepping out of comfort zones to do something completely different. But overall, people seemed to enjoy it. There was good energy throughout the buildings all three days.”
Looking Back and Planning Ahead
Mrs. Steinberg recalls the way it all came together. She reveals that the weeks and days leading up to the event were exciting but also busy as they were working on tying up loose ends. On Monday morning, at the start of the event, the energy levels suddenly shot up. Everyone naturally slipped into the right mindset. “It was like there was only so much momentum until it happened. And I hope we can carry that momentum into the future,” she considers.
Future Community Days are currently in the ‘reflection phase’. The plan is to streamline and simplify.
At the moment, feedback is being gathered from staff and students and the program will be adjusted with the necessary adaptations.
“We hope to continue with the Community Days, maybe in a different version – Community Days 2.0 – in the future,” Mrs. Ang clarifies.