Inclusive Community Building

Inclusive Community Building
Diverse Community Illustration

Inclusive Community Building

April 2023 | Issue #38

Brief Ideas to Build Community in 2023-2024

Did you sense a feeling of disconnection on your campus this year? Some national survey results suggest that at least a third of students would rate their school culture negatively, and this national trend highlights a need to prioritize student engagement and nurture feelings of belonging. We can better foster community in our learning spaces by planning opportunities for learning partners to feel welcome, supported, and engaged. Our learning partners are the caregivers, staff, and students that work and learn in these settings every day, but they may also include the neighborhoods, organizations, and businesses that support the community. Let’s take a quick look at some simple ways to address these feelings.

Investing in furniture, décor, and ambiance may seem like surface level change but research has proven that biophilic design deeply affects feelings of safety and belonging. Take time to explore the functionality and arrangement of your campus and classrooms, and look for opportunities to include plants, organic shapes, natural lighting, or natural color palettes in areas with the most challenges. Furthermore, invite staff, students, and community partners to contribute to campus beautification efforts. Plan to prioritize their input on how these spaces can become more welcoming in the future by calendaring time to talk and brainstorm. Taking the time to consistently and sincerely consult and question can often increase connectedness without purchasing a single item.

Restorative practices can improve the climate and culture of a campus by providing opportunities for staff and students to use affective language, practice conflict resolution, and learn self-regulatory techniques. These skills require explicit instruction and modeling to develop fluency, so focus on building their use into your culture and routines. Introduce them at staff and student orientations, or host quarterly booster sessions where everyone can refresh or practice to success.

Another way to expand upon your current work to build a positive school climate and campus culture, would be to explore cultural paradigms that align with your school’s vision and mission statements. A cultural paradigm is a collection of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and values that are shaped amongst a group of people. It also defines the basic roles and concepts we hold about ourselves and relationships within the community

Your cultural paradigms may be reflective of the local community you find yourself in, or it may be a philosophy that you’ve carried across experiences in life. There’s great potential in using this concept to build or change school cultures. For example, one might lead a school project exploring how principles of humanity in Ubuntu, finding purpose in Ikigai, or the tenets of self-determination in the American Dream could be embodied in the day-to-day practice and progress of learning on your campus. By taking this approach and including participation from your local community, you can change a project into participatory action research that may have transformative applications for your campus.


What is Restorative Practices?: International Institute for Restorative Practices
Restorative Practices and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Alignments: Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL)

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