William Konkin Elementary SD#91 Nechako Lakes

School Name: William Konkin Elementary

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Cordell Ware: cware@sd91.bc.ca
Shawnese Trottier: strottier@sd91.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: cware@sd91.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Oral Language

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? The learning within and from intentional, purposeful, and practical acts of kindness.

Scanning: In our scanning and reflection of last year, we noted that many of our learners were engaging in unkind words and actions towards peers and staff. COVID-19 and the unprecedented times increased stress and anxiety, which appeared to add to the unkind words and actions. We asked how we can give our students the chance to engage in intentional, purposeful, and practical acts of kindness to support community and change our school narrative. As a school, we have undertaken a year long project to BUILD-GROW-SHARE Kindness. We are building wooden crates, growing fresh produce, and sharing those items with our local food bank and those in need. (More details here: https://sd91can-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/g/personal/cware_sd91_bc_ca/EXLlPpim8wlNlM6zkgQT3TEBllS5nkCGuIAxirivjhqDbg?e=CGkYSa ) OR (Watch the video: https://sd91can-my.sharepoint.com/:v:/g/personal/cware_sd91_bc_ca/Eb_Th6oi2YRNiqf79WByBlgBqBDCurG4a-hlUTaQsrzQeg?e=EUF5wm )

Focus: We chose this area because we saw the potential for our school community to grow and thrive in a new way. Our aim was to partner with students in the process of being kind and showing practical kindness, with the hope that kindness in our community would multiply.

Hunch: Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic was putting a new form of stress on our learners and that stress, along with other factors of trauma, were presenting in unkind actions and words. Secondly, as we are a school that is often seen by some in our community as a tough school, our hunch is that learners adopt this partial community perspective and act in ways to align with that tough stereotype held by some in our community. It is our great hope that both learners and the community would see what we know to be true: Our learners are a strong, diverse, caring, and powerful learning community.

New Professional Learning: We have engaged and wish to continue to learn about:
1. Teaching empathy and kindness to a wide range of learners.
2. The indoor tower gardens, that are growing the fresh produce. Our school has three towers, and the operation of them requires new learning often as we try to maximize produce growth.
3. New forms of narrative to transform our school story.

Taking Action: We took on the BUILD-GROW-SHARE kindness project as a school community. We did this by using the times we (Shawnese and Cordell) teach prep (Library and ADST) to all the school’s homerooms. This allowed all the students in our school to have dedicated time to work on this kindness project and learn about the power of kindness. One strategy we used to help students discover that kindness power was through storytelling. The students created autobiographical stories and accounts of their kindness work. These stories took the form of video and slideshows (images). Students then were able to share their stories with peers, the school, and the community.

Checking: Our students built over 75 wooden crates by hand this school year. We donated half of them to the local food bank and filled them will fresh produce that we grew inside our school using garden growing towers. Our food bank serves many of our school families. Our students got to help and partner with the great local service that supports so many here in Burns Lake. That work helps to transform and encourage our community.

The other half of the wooden crates were sold and the money raised paid for a young boy in Ethiopia to go to school for one whole year. The boy’s name is Biniyam, and without our students sponsoring his education he would be focused on scavenging in the local garbage dump to survive. At school he is fed meals and is safe. Our students were able to share letters and pictures with Biniyam and also received letters and pictures from him. Our students call Biniyam a friend, and they have seen the change their kindness has made in his life.

When we asked students at the beginning of the year, they really couldn’t describe what kindness looked like or how it takes form. Now our learners answer that same question and draw on their experiences this year with the BUILD-GROW-SHARE kindness project. They share how their practical and purposeful actions changed their new friend Biniyam’s life and how more of our community had access to fresh produce. (Watch our video: https://sd91can-my.sharepoint.com/:v:/g/personal/cware_sd91_bc_ca/Eb_Th6oi2YRNiqf79WByBlgBqBDCurG4a-hlUTaQsrzQeg?e=EUF5wm)

Reflections/Advice: We learned that this work is transformative for our school community and for how our school is viewed by the larger community. This is healing work that will need continued steps forward. We are blessed to see how kindness has overflowed in our school with both the big and small actions of our wonderful students.

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