Tapping into the community to better prepare students for success after graduation

two students stand on one side of a table and talk to three adults on the other side of table
Seeing the future of our schools through the lens of a student. Forum participants ask elementary students how the “Four C’s:” Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity play a role in their project-based learning.

Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk community members joined district administrators for an evening focused on Unity with the Community. Participants not only learned where the RCS Leadership Team envisions the district in 5 years, but also had the chance to give input on other opportunities our community and schools can provide students to improve student outcomes.

boy smiles at someone off camera
Middle school students helped lead forum participants through a restorative circle.

The discussions and presentations focused around the four “C”s: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Dozens of community members rotated through three interactive presentations. Elementary students displayed and discussed their work with project based learning, a hands-on, problem-solving educational technique. Middle school students took community members on a journey through restorative circles, a practice used to bring students together to understand commonalities and respect differences. And, high school students led discussions about the potential for work-based learning and career and technical education at RCS.

See the video from our high school presentation here:

After experiencing each section, participants reconvened as one large group to consider how the community fits into the 5-year programmatic plan. They were asked to discuss three questions:

  1. How can RCS can promote collaboration, critical thinking or creativity in and out of school while staying relevant to the community and the world?
  2. How do we give voice to students, parents, staff and community members to fulfill these aspirations?
  3. What other opportunities, vocational, academic, philanthropic or otherwise, should we be providing to or students to foster collaboration, critical thinking and creativity to prepare them for employability?
an adult writes notes as another looks on
Forum participants work together to answer the question, ‘how can the community help create better outcomes for our students?”

Feedback from these questions saw an overlap in many areas. Multiple participants spoke to the need for:

  • Mentoring by older students and by community experts
  • Job fairs for students
  • Connecting with local companies to create work-related, problem solving experiences for students to think critically
  • Exposing students to the world through trips and technology
  • Encouraging more volunteerism
  • Expanded in-house workforce development
  • Introducing restorative practices to more grades
  • Seminars for students that teach life and soft skills

Three task force groups were created to focus on the opportunities discussed at the forum. One group will focus on creativity, one on critical thinking and one on collaboration.