At GVP, community is first and foremost to a students’ learning and wellbeing. We believe that we must intentionally create an inclusive, welcoming environment: a safe place in which one can fully be themselves, unafraid to express their thoughts and opinions. This is especially important for our community, with our diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
At GVP, we start every school year with our integrated unit, “Welcome.” We introduce ourselves, learn where we are from and what languages we speak. We center our community on our five core values: respect, responsibility, kindness, appreciation, and lifelong learning. Before we even start academic classes, we discuss what it means to be a community and how we can all agree to work and learn alongside each other.
Midway through the semester, our staff, teachers, and students pause our regular classes to come together for Community Day. This year, it took place on October 7th. The purpose of the day was to recenter our GVP core values and our commitment to working together in harmony. To do this, we lean on the principles of restorative justice and what we call “circle work.” Sitting in a circle, each individual has a chance to share their thoughts and feelings, and the whole community listens to understand. Community Day was anchored in circles, beginning and ending the day together as a whole school.
One exciting moment of the day was an outdoor STEAM challenge. A simple task to stack marshmallows and toothpicks in the tallest tower quickly created a space of laughter and problem-solving. STEAM lessons use engineering and design principles to create accessible tasks that allow students to communicate, collaborate, and think critically. With mixed-forms groups working together, the energy in the air outside was filled with levity, joy, and togetherness. Some students even snuck marshmallows into their mouths as they built their architectural structures.
Another impactful moment was during the end of day circle, after students and teachers shared what they appreciated about the day. Two students came prepared with a special presentation: they had a conflict previously and spent the day with Dr. Cassie, our Director of Education & Impact, restoring their relationship. After a hard day’s work, they presented to the whole school their perspectives on how fighting affects our community, answering questions like “Why is fighting bad?” and “How can we repair the harm done in our community?” That day, these two incredible young women became leaders and advocates for peacefully working through differences.
Overall, through school-wide collaboration, Community Day showed the importance of taking time to stop, reset, and think about how we can continue to build a better community together. “When we do all of these things together, it helps us work together and play together,” reflected ELA Teacher Ms. Olivia McKellar.