Is community important to learning?
The first response is perhaps….“If my child is learning, developing skills and achieving…well yes, community is a good bonus.”
But, I would like to suggest that success begins with community and that our children in fact learn better, improve skills and meet their goals because of the influence of community.
Research shows that children learn better when they feel confident, have a sense of belonging and can make connections from themselves, their interests and their learning to the wider world. This helps them to build relationships and connect to others. This begins at home but then to the extended family, the school, their immediate living environment, (building, compound, street), the local community, the city and as they grow, further beyond into the global community. This connection is crucial not only for the student themselves but for also building a global awareness and involvement to support future contributions.
As educators we recognize this and believe in building community, connecting with community and honouring community. This is the starting point for learning in every way as children must know how to connect, interact and interpret their environment and the people with in it physically, factually and emotionally. This needs to occur first because it effects a child’s conditions for learning as the community can effect a child’s well being physically and emotionally.
At school we support children in feeling physically and emotionally safe, we support them in making connections to the environment and the people in it. We encourage children to explore and feel safe, to wonder and be risk takers, to create and be curious and to connect and be open.
We achieve this by:
- making links from the content of their learning to their community
- making relationships with organisations and experts within the community to support student learning and build relationships for sharing skills
- developing a sense of empathy and awareness in students in order to value how they can contribute
- recognizing the efforts of others in improving student learning and well being
- developing a sense of responsibility in students for their contributions to the community
- supporting students in using important skills of communication, research, analysis and self management within this context to allow them to practice and improve these skills
- supporting, communicating with and connecting to all members of the school community and local community to build and celebrate learning for all
Understanding the value of these relationships and how they contribute to learning and developing skills offer important foundations to the learning environment for children. The community is an important influencing factor to learning beginning with the family community, the school community, the local community, the regional community, the national community and ultimately the global community.