Building School Community Partnerships Takes Work

middle schoolers working with people

Schools and their surrounding communities often share a symbiotic relationship. When a neighborhood flourishes, so does its local schools. In turn, those schools bring their community together through events and friendships amongst the students. For Arthur Morgan School, the partnership with its surrounding community runs deep.

Two Halves of the Same Whole

Middle schooler hauling log with adultArthur Morgan, himself, founded Celo Community in 1937. The consensus governed intentional community strives “to provide an opportunity for its members to enjoy a life that includes personal expression, neighborly friendship and cooperation, and appreciative care of the natural environment.”  AMS, created by Morgan’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, began 25 years later with similar goals in mind.

The relationship between AMS and Celo Community has always been entwined. The first students actually lived in community member’s homes instead of boarding houses. Many of AMS’s staff and teachers over the years (including the school’s first teacher, Bob Barrus), eventually became official Celo community members. As a result, their children continue the family tradition by attending AMS as students.  

Opportunities for Learning

Middle schooler hauling bambooBecause AMS is a school, learning has always been a natural part of its relationship with Celo.  Over the years, community members have offered elective courses to students as a way of sharing their hobbies and professions. In return, AMS invites the community to its Academic Open Houses. Every year, when Celo Community organizes its Cabin Fever University, a winter long program aimed at sharing knowledge and organizing social events, staff and students are excited to participate.

Holidays are also opportunities for community members and AMS to come together. Celo Community celebrates New Years Day and Easter on AMS’s campus.  In turn, students often attend the community’s annual Halloween jack-o’-lantern bridge display. Celo Friends Meeting also offers a place for community and spiritual worship for many AMS students.

Working Together Builds Partnership

Middle schoolers working with adultsPerhaps one of the strongest ties between the school and the community is through cooperative work. For several years now, Celo and AMS have shared the monumental task of taking care of their common spaces. Every October, students join Celo Community for their monthly work day to care for community’s rental homes, common buildings, and trails. Students work alongside community member clearing brush and repairing structures.

This Saturday, the community will return the favor by coming to to AMS’s campus and help the school prepare for its annual Thanksgiving feast.  Current parents of students will also attend and have the opportunity to meet community members that regularly interact with their middle schoolers. With rakes and loppers in hand, community members, parents, students an staff will face the cold autumn winds to beautify campus and prepare it for the over 150 people that regularly join us for Thanksgiving every year.

Passing on a Shared History

Middle schooler hauling brushThe work day also offer opportunities for student growth. For many middle schoolers, engaging adults they don’t know is scary, but once they work together, their fears quickly subside. Community members share memories of AMS from when they were a student, staff, parent or just visiting the school. Students learn that many of the school’s daily routines and annual events, new to them, are actually part of a long history shared by much of the community. They understand they are part of something larger than themselves that has been passed down from generation to generation.

The work day, along with all shared community events, is an opportunity for AMS to continue its long relationship with Celo. As this new class of students and parents learn of AMS’s history with Celo Community, it will deepen the partnership that continues to make both AMS and Celo successful.

-by Nicholas Maldonado

AMS offers lots of ways for students to feel part of a larger community.
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