Building community

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Social action art therapy

Deborah Golub (2005) describes social action art therapy as ‘a participatory, collaborative process that emphasizes art making as a vehicle by which communities name and understand their realities, identify their needs and strengths, and transform their lives in ways that contribute to individual and collective wellbeing and social justice.’

Collaborative learning is more than just putting students together

Forming a sense of community through interdependence, task cohesion, psychological safety, and group potency is crucial for the development of social and cognitive processes (Bossche et al., 2006). Therefore, developing a sense of community is required for the successful facilitation of collaborative learning. Approaches and frameworks for creating such environments include constructivism, transformative pedagogy and activity theory.

Enhancing youth health and wellbeing by fostering the idea of community

The idea of community is a strong theme in the School Wide Positive Behaviour Strategy. In Critical Pedagogy for Social Justice, Smyth (2011) emphasises that the concept of community is dynamic and ubiquitous, describing it as a ‘realm of collective actions that are connected to wider global flows of ideas, arguments and movements’ (p. 106). These ‘collective actions’ are inextricably linked to the concept of wellbeing, which ‘focuses on how the relationship between individuals and their social, economic and cultural contexts enables people to be well’ (White & Wyn, 2013, p. 210). Wellbeing is not only something that is experienced by young people, it is also ‘a reflection of the quality of social relationships and spaces (or communities) in which young people are embedded’ (Wyn, 2009, p. 108).

Student Action Teams

Students at this school are encouraged to develop responsibility for their community, and therefore wellbeing, by participating in Student Action Teams which help students develop a sense of purpose, a sense of control and a sense of belonging (Wyn, 2009). In a conversation with a teacher I heard that students were planning to improve environmental wellbeing by constructing a community garden at the nearby train station.

A positive attitude towards developing community is also apparent in the School Wide Positive Behaviour Strategy. It provides students with prompts to: help others, be inclusive, treat the public with respect, value difference, take care of and respect the environment, build positive relationships, model caring and respectful interactions, support the environment by using public transport and take an interest in their surroundings.