School-agers have a general understanding of what it means to be a member of a community. They are able to engage in deeper conversations about how communities work. In some cases, they have many external pressures that influence the decisions that they make about their interactions within a community.
- Work with children to create a community contract. The contract should outline the behaviors that are expected in the classroom community. Have each child sign the contract showing their commitment to being a positive member of the community.
- Consider creating community leadership positions. These leaders can change each month to give everyone a chance to hold a position. These leaders should take an active role in decision making and problem solving in the classroom. Use titles such as Problem Solver, Class Listener, or Solution Finder, rather than president or vice president.
- Check in with each student when they enter the program. Gauge how they are feeling after a long day at school. Ask them to give a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or thumbs-sideways to let you know how their day went. This will help you make decisions about how to respond to their needs. If most children had a thumbs-down day, you might alter your plan to give them a bit more time to wind down before asking them to meet the demands of your program.
- Incorporate meditation or deep breathing as a transition from school to the after school program. Use guided imagery to encourage children to reflect on their day, let go of negative feelings, and prepare to participate in the program.
- Use literature and appropriate pop culture references to explore the importance of being a positive community member.
- Engage in community service projects together. Create and sell art to raise money for a cause. Plant a garden and donate food to a shelter. Gather donations to send to soldiers overseas. Coordinate a park clean-up day.
- Encourage children to create a play or talent show to promote cooperation, communication, and collaboration. These productions allow children to participate in different ways, so children who don’t want to preform, can still take a role in set design or costuming.