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Community & Activism
MCS nurtures a strong sense of community among students, teachers, and families. Children are taught to value kindness, respect, and peaceful resolution of conflict. The academic curriculum incorporates children’s identities, opinions, and personal experiences; the strength of the community grows as students learn more about each other. The MCS community is exemplified at the Farm, where children work together to create and participate in a self-sustaining community.
Every class at MCS begins with a morning meeting. Students learn how to listen to each other, respect each others’ ideas, and engage in dialogue with the group. In the earlier grades, morning meetings begin with a message, including announcements and a framing question, such as “What do we see in a city?” or “What does it mean to be an activist?” As students get older, community meetings are a place to address class issues or discuss current events. Students begin to bring their own topics to meeting.
Every classroom has a job chart that gives each student a role in maintaining the classroom as a productive learning environment. Students help with attendance, collecting homework, daily cleaning, and lunch. Additionally, each class beginning with the 6-7s has a job that they do for the school:
8-9s—School store (La Tienda) and recycling
9-10s—Reading buddies for the 6-7s
5th Grade—School newspaper
6th Grade—Library helpers
7th Grade—Child development (working with the 4-5s)
8th Grade—Admissions tour guides
Four times a year, the entire school gathers to celebrate as a community: Thanksgiving, the winter festivals of light (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings’ Day, and the Solstice), the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and the end of the school year. Parents are invited to join for singing, student presentations, and other school traditions.
Schoolwide events such as the Farm Festival in the fall and the Martin Luther King Jr. Walk in January draw many members of the MCS community, including alumni, alumni families, and friends of the school. The spirit of MCS community is reflected in the cooperative efforts and passionate voices at these events.
Parents and families are an integral part of the MCS program. Adults are often invited to come to a class and share their interests, whether cooking a special food, playing music, talking about their careers, or sharing a piece of their family’s culture and heritage. Parents also accompany classes on field trips. Just as each class of students has a job for the school, class parents also take on jobs, such as organizing the Farm Festival, the Book Fair, or graduation.
Social Justice and Activism
The themes of activism and social justice run throughout the MCS program. Students study the history of activist movements as well as current struggles for equality. The choice of books and topics of discussions in classes reflect our effort to help students become active participants in our democratic society.
Students learn about the diversity of the human experience and the pursuit of social justice throughout MCS. The 6-7s discuss the value of work and communities of workers. A 7-8s music class might explore the meaning of a boycott while learning a freedom song from the Civil Rights Movement. Fifth graders talk with their public school partners about Dr. King’s legacy as they develop the criteria for the “Living the Dream” Book Award. Sixth graders study the history of MCS as a living example of grassroots change: MCS founders Gus and Marty Trowbridge, two people with a dream, brought to life a groundbreaking new school.
Lessons in the classroom often become invitations to activism as students begin with change in their school community and then look to the outside world. As the school’s leaders, the 7th and 8th graders have the opportunity to design and lead an activism project as a group each year. Their recent spring projects have included:
- Lobbying for the DREAM Act in Washington, DC
- Leading a Teach-In about Mountain-Top Removal (MTR) Coal Mining in West Virginia
- Writing children’s books to teach other young people about accepting LGBTQ students
- Traveling to Mississippi to work with children and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina
The 8th graders also plan the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March. They begin with the question, “If Dr. King were alive today, what do you think he would be marching for?” Students choose a topic, decide on the route, write speeches that they will deliver along the way, publicize the event, and invite special guests. Marches are community events, with 200 to 300 people in attendance.
“The school puts the leadership in our hands.” – 8th grader