A few weeks ago, I sat at my desk during lunch, quietly watching 36 middle school students debate which environmental non-profit they wanted to support with their Tu B’Shevat bake sale. While some students brainstormed ideas, others did research on CharityNavigator.org, while still others began making a list of tasty treats to make and sell. Eventually, after much discussion and deliberation, they decided to donate the money to a cause very close to home, the Yavneh garden. All of this–the bake sale, the environmental non-profits, the impetus to research the legitimacy of the charities, and the ultimate decision to give back to their school–was initiated and driven completely by the students.
Student council, one of many leadership opportunities afforded to Yavneh middle schoolers, has initiated and carried out many programs this year, including lunch-time Hanukkah activities for the lower school students, several tzedakah projects, and a campaign to encourage respectful behavior in our new Beit Kehillah.
One of Yavneh’s fundamental beliefs is that learning is meaningful when it is relevant. The magical thing about student council is that the students are in charge of very tangible programs with reasonably high stakes. They do thorough, uncomplaining work, work that touches on many curricular and co-curricular concepts (budgeting and money math, legislative and democratic processes, note-taking and respectful discourse). By putting the students at the center, by giving them autonomy and decision-making power, we are molding engaged, thoughtful participants of the community.
When the student council was asked recently to plan a spirit day to celebrate Rosh Hodesh Adar Bet, the happiest of all rosh hodeshim, they decided to increase the school’s joy by planning a spirit week instead, a week that would include the middle school dance party, a project they have all been working at long and hard.
Here’s the spirit week the student council has planned:
Monday, 3/4: Pajama Day
Tuesday, 3/5: Crazy Hair Day
Wednesday, 3/6: Class Spirit (each class will decide on a theme or a color)
Thursday, 3/7: Fancy Shmancy Day (middle school dance that evening)
Friday, 3/8: Venachfoch Hu Day (students dress like teachers/teachers dress like students)
Rosh Hodesh Adar sameach!