Once your school has established a culture of safety and support, you can begin to cultivate an environment that stimulates and excites. Stimulation is essential for youth so that they can grow as independent and driven individuals.
The best way to do this is by creating an enriched environment where children can thrive in several ways. Children are naturally drawn to that which is neither too simple nor too complex (the Goldilocks Principle). They need to be engaged, but not overworked. Because there are so many learning and personality types, providing opportunities for all students is important.
Many students can feel trapped when they feel like there’s only one way to measure success. Providing attractive alternatives to standardized academic metrics – and removing dead ends in education – creates equity for students and promotes social engagement. The goal should be to stimulate all the senses, though not all at once. This gives opportunity for engagement without “overloading” students. A culture of stimulation should reach beyond the classroom, however, and the faculty have a responsibility to lead by example in all ways.
To promote and stimulate community and social charity, students and teachers should both be taking leadership roles in the school and the community. This is often referred to as “Service Learning”, and is a form of experiential education. Community engagement positively impacts student learning, as well as their ability to apply knowledge to everyday situations.
Working alongside both peers and leaders encourages and empowers youth to participate in their communities and other social constructs. We often declare our identity by behaving in ways that allow us to simultaneously fit in and stand out, so be sure to offer several learning opportunities and channels without sacrificing community and collaboration.
The keys to community, leadership, and social learning are safety, support, and stimulation.
Navigating these waters can be difficult, and there is no “one size fits all” curriculum. Creating a positive school culture can also be extremely challenging. Especially if you are starting with a toxic culture in which students and teachers alike have generally negative feelings about the students’ ability to succeed.
There is no such thing as a neutral school culture, and while making the shift from positive to negative can be a challenge, it is entirely possible.