At The Mill School, we prioritize the social and emotional health of our community. We believe this emphasis will help to create a safe space for each individual to learn and thrive as a human being. We deliberately build our classroom community in a number of ways, and strive to create a community where each child feels seen, heard, and valued.
Our day begins outdoors, all together at the stump circle, in what we call Morning Meeting. This meeting has a variety of components: greeting, singing, a fun movement piece that we all do together or playing a group game, and sit spots.
We start the day greeting one another in a variety of ways throughout the year as a way for each child to start their day firmly in the belief that they are part of this community.
Throughout the year we sing many songs. These are seasonal songs or songs with movement or folk songs. We sing together to laugh together, to smile together, and to share our voices.
Children love to move and play games, so the movement piece of Morning Meeting is there to honor the children's natural inclinations, as well as encourage them to work together as a whole group.
After greeting, singing, moving and playing together, it is time for each child to take a breath and have a moment to themselves before the end of Morning Meeting. This is the time for sit spots, when each child sits alone outside observing themselves and their surroundings. We encourage this time for the children to breathe, to notice something or to hear something in the natural world surrounding them, and to be still before we come all together for the rest of our day.
A weekly routine that supports our class community is Class Meeting. In the beginning of the school year, we use this time to think about our hopes, goals, and dreams for the school year. Then the children work together to create classroom norms that support us in achieving those hopes and goals. For example, one year the Classroom Norms were: be kind, do the most work we can, listen to each other, and include everyone. These norms help to guide our actions, and we refer to these norms throughout the year.
Our weekly Class Meeting also allows us to address issues as they emerge in the community. We talk about issues that bother us at school, and we use restorative circles to hear more about those issues. For example, some issues that we have talked through at Class Meeting include: when someone interrupts a teacher or child who is talking, when a classmate is in your personal space, when a group is playing a game at recess and no one wants to be "it", etc. Class Meetings give us a structure within which to work on the issues that arise as we live, learn, and work alongside each other.
Each March, children at The Mill School perform a class play at the Dirigo Grange in Freedom Village. The play offers a unique medium for self expression. It is a wonderful way to honor multiple intelligences. It presents the children with real problems to solve, and true collaboration is necessary for success. Performing the play offers opportunities for memorization as well as authentic work in the language arts of speaking and listening. The school play brings the group together as a cohesive unit, working towards a common goal. It is a tradition that we really enjoy and we feel that it helps us to build our class community.