Just before our winter break, every Middle School student participated in our first Middle School Affinity Day — an effort designed to foster authentic connections and build community across friend groups, grade levels, and classes.
Participants completed a survey in advance and were grouped with other students and adults who share common personal identifiers, such as race, gender, religion, and family structure. More specifically, these included: Adoptive Family, Anxiety, Asian, Black, Child of an Immigrant, Christian, Deceased Member of Household, Divorced Parents, Eldest Child, Female, Jewish, Latino/Latinx, Learning Difference, LGBTQ+/Loved one who is LGBTQ+, Male, More than Two Siblings, Multiracial, No Religion, Only Child, Speak Another Language at Home, White, and Youngest Child.
Groups were facilitated by members of the Head-Royce Professional Community who could speak to the identity group from the “I” perspective. Adults from every division and from various offices across campus participated, with over 270 students participating in 36 different affinity offerings. The creation of Middle School Affinity Days is a single example of the work the School is undertaking to strengthen its commitment towards greater inclusivity.
Research shows that the following positive outcomes result from participation in Affinity Groups:
Students who have a strong sense of identity and “school belonging” do better academically.
Students who participate in affinity groups have shown a greater sense of school connectedness.
School connectedness has been shown to create stronger academic outcomes.
Positive experiences with diversity contribute to greater critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity.
According to feedback from students (and adults), students loved being able to connect with their peers who shared their identifier and were surprised by how much they have in common. Many remarked that they had not realized before that day that so many other middle schoolers shared their identifier.
The whole day was organized by an ambitious and deeply committed group of Middle School teachers: Emily Miller, Suzy Klein, Justin Baker-Rhett, Debbie Lehman, Gin Saepharn, and Kristin Dwelley.
On Friday, February 8, students will have another opportunity to participate in Affinity Groups. They will be given the choice to repeat participation in a group they've already met with or choose a new group to join.
While one child may strongly identify with their race, another might identify with their religion, while another might most strongly identify with their gender. This work is key to our mission: “We believe a school community rich in diversity provides the greatest opportunity for students to learn life's lessons. We are committed to respecting, nurturing, and promoting diversity and its importance in the education and development of our students and the well-being of our community.”
Bird's Eye View is a story series highlighting our work towards the initiatives and goals laid out in our Strategic Plan: Bridge to 2022.