The Craft of Building Community

middle schooler using a band saw to make a gift

Building community is always hard work.  Sometimes it’s emotional work in which people need clearnesses to mediate their disagreements. Other times it’s intellectual work as staff and students try to create classes and schedules that fit everyone’s needs. Sometimes though, it’s just fun, artistic work.  It’s the holiday season.  People everywhere are buying gifts and getting in the spirit of showing appreciation for their loved ones. At Arthur Morgan School, staff and students get into the holiday season too, but as always, we do it in our own unique way.

Opportunities for Appreciation

middle schooler knitting a giftGift giving is regular part of the AMS schedule. Several times throughout the year staff and students make each other thoughtful, handmade gifts as a way of showing their appreciation for one another.   

In the fall, we participate in Menitos, a week long activity that helps students and staff get to know one another. Everyone draws a random name  and gives that person a small anonymous gift of appreciation each day.  The gifts can be as simple as a cup of tea or a nice note, or something a little more involved like a knitted item. At the end of the week people reveal their Menito and new relationship forms.

In the spring, Social Advising groups will exchange gifts. These gifts, or awards as they are often called, are very different from Menitos. The advisee groups typically form deep bonds throughout the year. So, as they prepare to say goodbye to one another, they celebrate their relationship and what they appreciate about one another. The awards are usually very personal and speak to the connection between the advisor and advisees. It is typical for these gifts to take several weeks to create and emote tears upon their delivery.

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

middle schooler using pottery wheelThis week is another opportunity for community building through gift giving. The school’s Winter Celebration in on Thursday. Set at the end of the December Unit, the Winter Celebration is a chance for AMS to get into the holiday spirit by putting their artistic talents to work for one another.  Students and staff will enter a transformed Green Cay that is decorated to the Winter Celebration’s secret theme.  They will perform for one another and give a  gift that they have been preparing over the last couple weeks to a selected member of the community.

With the pressure of their conferences and the Fall Open House behind them, staff and students usually feel pretty relaxed during the December Unit. Its a great time to focus everyone’s energy outward and inspire creativity. Cookies, music and Christmas lights create a fun festive moment with one another before everyone says goodbye for the long winter break.

Building Community through Gift Giving

At times, gift giving can feel like a chore.  The pressure to be creative and make something can feel like a burden especially when people are feeling stressed.  In these difficult moments, many of us prefer to focus inward and take care of ourselves and our own pressures without needing to worry about others.  That is why these gift giving moments are so essential. These moments build in students a sense of being part of something larger than themselves. They look outward from their stresses and focus on someone else. They focus on building community.

-by Natalie Monaghan and Nicholas Maldonado

AMS offers lots of different community building activities!
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