For our Build Week in December, we focused on community, kindness, and service.
We began the week by reading from a philosophical text about the pleasures that kindness brings, and we talked about whether they thought kindness might be opposed to success in some way. Students also decided on specific kind acts they would do at home and at school during the week, to test their hypotheses about kindness. Over the course of the week each grade group focused on a different aspect of kindness and performed a related service project: kindness in our school, kindness to the earth, and kindness within our larger community. We all came back together at the end of the week to discuss our week practicing kindness, as well as to reflect on our attitude at the school more broadly.
The sixth graders focused on a theme of everyday kindness. We discussed ways of being kind in our everyday lives, at home and at school. We thought about the many small kindnesses and luxuries that we benefit from each day. For one afternoon, we became authors of advice columns—putting ourselves in others' shoes, practicing empathy, and articulating advice for others facing tough situations.
Tasked with developing projects that would demonstrate kindness to the rest of the school, the sixth graders created
- a Kindness Wall, where students and staff can publicly acknowledge the kindness of others
- an elaborate snack stand that received many enthusiastically customers during Thursday lunch
- a scavenger hunt for the rest of the school (which was unfortunately cleaned up before we could do the hunt!)
Our 7th and 8th graders focused their community service project on the environment, with a field trip to the Presidio to clear an area of fallen bushes and trees after a recent wind storm. At one point, we were trying to move a 30-foot tree that wouldn't budge; the park rangers suggested we go to lunch but our crew was relentless. They simply declared there would be no lunch until we moved that fallen tree—and we did.
The best moment of the week, however, was on the way back on a MUNI bus. It kept filling and filling, and about halfway back to Proof School, a class of first graders boarded the bus. Our Proof Schoolers spontaneously got up and gave the little kids their seats. I was quite proud of their service, but I was even more proud of their awareness of others and their kindness. It was truly a moment of leadership.
The high school students focused on kindness within our larger community, learning about issues of poverty and homelessness. They read an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and discussed the challenges faced by minimum wage workers in the U.S. and the extreme difficulty of pulling oneself out of poverty.
This led to a hands-on activity in which students simulated the unequal distribution of wealth and power in the world and had the chance to brainstorm and then vote on proposals to re-distribute these resources in some way. Students also learned about what some activist and altruist organizations are doing to help. For their service project, students volunteered at the Glide Foundation, handing out bags of groceries to the needy and impoverished individuals who live right in our school's neighborhood.
Lastly, one student took it upon himself to plan, develop, and make this gift for the entire Proof School community: a work of anamorphic art. He asked that his gift be anonymous, and for everyone to enjoy it!
--Sydney Cochran, Kathy Lin, and Zachary Sifuentes