Dedham Country Day School, is partnering with the Making Caring Common (MCC) Initiative, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. MCC’s mission is to help educators, parents, and communities raise children who are caring, responsible to their communities, and committed to justice. This involves ensuring that a climate of respect, kindness, and caring exists at partner schools like Dedham Country Day that share these values.
To achieve this goal, in addition to what we do programmatically to promote good citizenship and to reinforce our existing culture of “inspiring students to become caring, ethical members of the larger world,” as described in our mission statement, DCD recently launched two new programs.
In January, our whole school participated in the Great Kindness Challenge ® sponsored by the Kids for Peace Organization. Each classroom had a checklist of 50 acts of kindness that students were encouraged to complete during the week of the challenge. The younger students took this challenge very seriously and worked energetically to check as many acts as they could off the list.
Our middle school students adapted their approach to choosing various ways to demonstrate kindness through what they believed to be authentic activities. These included older students stepping outside to greet the younger students at morning drop-off or leaving sticky notes on classmates’ cubbies to acknowledge something positive about them. At the kick-off assembly back in January, the community talked about ways to make this an ongoing effort instead of just a special weeklong activity. This idea of active kindness has remained even though the kindness challenge itself has ended!
A second initiative has been to establish two new affinity groups in DCD’s middle school; one for students of color and another for students interested in social justice.
The goals of the Students of Color group are to provide a safe space for sharing and expressing feelings, in a setting where the students are the majority, not the minority, and to develop ideas for educating and sharing with the broader community. Students in this group attended the Students of Color conference at the Dana Hall School earlier this year as part of their activities.
The Social Justice group was formed to give students a forum to talk about issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity and to help them make their voices heard both inside and outside of our community.
While these two new groups are in their early stages, we’ve had significant interest and participation in the initial meetings and believe these initiatives will take hold and gain momentum as we move through the spring and get ready for next year.
The impetus for these initiatives comes in part from our involvement with Making Caring Common and also from our longtime commitment to building community and service-learning. Community service projects that take place in every grade throughout the year, our Big Buddy/Little Buddy program to foster caring relationships between our eighth graders and younger students, and our host-student program to make new members of our community feel a greater sense of belonging are just a few examples of the many deliberate ways we as a school ensure that children are inspired to become caring members of the larger community. #CommonGood