Contributed by Kristen Haferbecker, All-School Community Engagement Coordinator
First-grade students began the OES season of commitment on Mount Hood Climb Observation Day ‘22 by making cards of appreciation for people around campus. They created cards for people they don’t know well, ranging from the Middle School faculty, to Morris House staff, to folks in the dorms and dining hall. This could have been just a lovely card-making activity. However, throughout this season of commitment, first graders have been expanding this act of appreciation into a deeper discovery of the people around campus.
The social justice standards from Learning for Justice are separated into four learning strands: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action. Using one of the Identity standards (“Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals”) as a launching point, first-graders began by exploring their own identities. Quickly, students realized that, just like themselves, anyone on campus would wish to be known, cared for, and honored deeply, not just for the job they do, but for all the parts of who they are. With that in mind, during interviews, they asked employees about their jobs, but also about pieces of their identity, what they like, and what brings them joy. After interviewing a number of employees, first graders shared:
“We got to know them on the inside, not just the outside.”
“It’s important to know ALL of someone.”
“When you really get to know someone, you can trust them and they can trust you.”
As part of the process, students were able to visit areas of campus they may not frequently go. This week, students from first-grade teacher Anthony Villasenor’s class took a trip to the administrative building Morris House, to visit with some of the people they interviewed, this time in the employees’ OES “home.” Students passed out letters of appreciation (along with many hand-made pictures and crafts) to express thanks for the ways these employees, who often remain unseen to our student body, help to make OES the community it is. Anthony shared, “What we are most proud of is the way students grew in understanding that their school community is supported by many more people than they initially thought. And the community members we met offered a deep and authentic introduction far beyond their job.”
First-grade students will be using the interviews to create a small directory to capture and share what they learned. Next year’s first graders will return to this work, and their commitment to increasing belonging in our OES community will keep growing and growing!