Learning can only take place when children feel secure enough to make mistakes. This is possible only when children are a part of a community that values, models, and teaches kindness and tolerance. These social skills must be taught explicitly and emphasized throughout the school day and year.
At Prairie Creek teachers and children spend the first six weeks of the school year making social communities in classrooms and as a school—playing together at recess, discussing ethical conduct, and developing the skills and language necessary for social problem solving. Throughout the year, we meet as a class daily to celebrate together and solve any problems that might occur. We teach and use the conflict resolution model in which each child involved in a conflict shares his or her perspective and then listens to others’ perspectives. Together they work to find a solution that is acceptable and strengthening for everyone.
Each classroom conducts daily morning meetings during which children greet one another, practice discussion skills, enjoy companionship, and set a peaceful tone for the day. All Prairie Creek teachers have training in the Responsive Classroom method. Linda Crawford, one of the creators of Responsive Classroom, honed many of the ideas of this approach during her time as director at Prairie Creek. Elements of Responsive Classroom, such as the primacy of the first six weeks of school for classroom community development, existed at Prairie Creek before they were disseminated through Responsive Classroom trainings.