by ES Council Supervisors Sangeeta Nanwani, Gr. 4 Teacher, and Eliza Kumamoto, ES Counsellor
Student leadership and agency is a cornerstone of learning at YIS. Each of our school levels has a Student Council (StuCo) that addresses issues relevant to the school level. This starts in Elementary School, and gives the young leaders ownership of and connection to the environment they live in everyday.
The history of the Elementary School StuCo goes back to the days when we had Peer Helpers. This was a team of students in Grades 4 and 5 who met with our Elementary School Counselor during lunchtime recess to talk about issues related to friendship and wellbeing in the elementary school. From there, the group evolved into what it is today: a Student Council, which follows a structured leadership model, comprised of students from Grades 3, 4 and 5.
As in the StuCos in high school and middle school, elementary school students need to go through an election process to join the council. However, unlike the secondary school structures, the elections for the ES representatives take place at the start of each school year in the homeroom classes. Any child in Grades 3, 4 and 5 are invited to run for a role as one of two StuCo class representatives. They are required to prepare a speech explaining why they would make a good class representative. On election day, the nominees each present their speech to their classmates, who then cast a vote for their preferred candidates.
This is probably the first experience for many students in the elementary school to run for a leadership position. On one hand, the children are excited to represent their section of the school by welcoming new students, bringing up conversations related to problems they notice during lunch/recess times, organizing events such as the ES dance, and planning Spirit Days with the MS and HS Student Councils. On the other hand, being a member of the ES StuCo challenges the youth to show commitment by giving up one of their lunch recesses each week to attend meetings. They also have to speak in front of large audiences when presenting at the elementary and whole school assemblies. Representatives have the responsibility to follow-up on any issues that need to be addressed, by independently organizing time to visit classrooms and collect data on topics that call for student consensus.
Last year, the children in Grades 3 to 5 were asked to reflect on how the turf was being used during lunchtime recess. For many years, soccer enthusiasts would run to line up for the turf. Soon several students, who do not play the sport, voiced that they would like to see the turf open for other types of games, such as frisbee, dodgeball and capture the flag. StuCo followed-up by establishing a new turf play schedule, which now allows for more students to access the turf for activities other than soccer.
Looking ahead, members are discussing the idea of supporting a Grade 5 student’s summative action plan for the Unit of Inquiry, How We Organize Ourselves, to make a ‘friendship bench’ for the school playground. The concept is to help those students who are not sure of what or whom to play with during lunchtime recess. When a child is in need of a buddy, he/she can go to the bench and a StuCo member will go over and invite them to play together.
Every child who joined this year mentioned that they want to make the school a ‘happy place for all’. While the representatives are still building on their leadership skills, this common goal is always at the core of all Elementary School StuCo meetings, as they plan and discuss their endeavors.