Newbie student government advisor looking for ideas to make the experience good for the kids
October 15, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I am one of two teachers who has been assigned to run an elementary school student government this year. What can I do to make this as meaningful an experience as possible for my young students?

The other teacher has worked on it before, but by herself and pretty much only had time for the basics. She is delighted for the help this year. We want to make it as awesome an experience as possible for the kids. Other relevant details:

- the council will consist of a president, vice president and class reps (about 3 kids, representing only the senior grades). So maybe 5-6 kids total ranging in age from 6-9.

- The principal does not want the focus to be on fund-raising as the school has many established programs and there is a worry the parents will be over-loaded.

- We would like to have some sort of workshop every month for them, with the kids being taken out of the cafeteria to have a special lunch with us and learn something. For example, one of the jobs of the class rep will be to greet visitors when they visit the school for tours, so we will have a workshop with them on how to be a good greeter. So, what other workshops can we have with them?

- The younger grades (pre-K to Grade 1) will not have official reps, but the vice president will periodically report to them. So, ideas on ways to include and involve these younger students would be welcome too.

I am a total newbie at this. Basically, we just really want the kids to have a good experience and I would welcome any ideas for events or activities the students could participate in and things we could have them do around the school as part of their 'jobs.'
posted by JoannaC to Education (7 answers total)
I would suggest a public speaking workshop.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 PM on October 15, 2010

I was on my elementary school's student council when I was in first grade. The part I remember best is that it was our job to decorate various communal parts of the school (the entrance, the courtyard). I thought it was just about the best thing ever, at the time. It was fun and creative and everyone got to see our beautification efforts.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:18 PM on October 15, 2010

Seconding ootandaboot, but I would direct your efforts at having your students choose, organise, and execute the project themselves. You will guide them through this, of course, but having them work on a somewhat large, somewhat long-term project will teach them a lot about governing as a group (voting on issues, generating a consensus, etc). I think this will work very well with your students, especially at the elementary level. Teaching Jr. High, it is amazing to see how few students seem to understand this process.
posted by Nightman at 8:36 PM on October 15, 2010


Sorry, I just have a little too much Friday on to do all the linkiness here, but from what I have seen, and heard, both anecdotedly and first person. something that may help you set up a good learning experience as far as kids developing an understanding of government and a good base for their future studies, is something I saw Sandra Day O'Connor hawking the other other words

iCivics is the best!
posted by timsteil at 9:27 PM on October 15, 2010

Have them learn and use Robert's Rules of Order to the maximum extent they are able.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:59 AM on October 16, 2010

Like everyone else, I'd suggest having the kids lead most of the activities themselves.

That said, I thought of a few specific workshop ideas--things that might help them with this, but will almost certainly help them as they grow up in life and have to interact with people. Workshops about how to effectively work in groups would be fantastic. Along those lines:

Have a workshop about hearing people--how to listen, both one-on-one and as part of a group. It sounds silly, and sure, it's something that (most) people develop on their own, eventually, but it would be a great gift, imo, for them to have that knowledge at a young age.

What about a workshop on taking criticism? For unjustified criticism, it's easy, and it can follow on the hearing-people workshop pretty easily. For justified criticism, it's more difficult, but there are coping techniques that could be introduced, and possible non-combative responses could be explored. Actually, this could be on criticism, full stop--how to constructively criticise people and use that as a teaching tool.

As Jacquilynne mentioned, a public speaking workshop could be awesome.

Maybe a workshop on how to lead (or foster) a discussion would be of use.

A workshop about how to be a leader--what that entails, how to delegate, how to not freak out with the knowledge that if someone else fails, you're the one who looks bad... Again, things that they'll learn later, sure, but also things that could be very helpful earlier on in life.
posted by MeghanC at 4:34 AM on October 16, 2010

JoannaC: "So, what other workshops can we have with them?"

Recycling. Create a campus-wide program, and let the kids be the reps in each grade for it. Some corresponding activities: design and create a flyer with recycling awareness that can be emailed to students' parents... collect and recycle phone books or catalogs/newspapers, and the grade that brings in the most phone books wins an ice cream party (etc)... campus clean-up day or campus beautification day... a visit from your city's environmental services coordinator at a school assembly about what happens to our trash after we throw it away... a "Wear Green to Go Green" day where kids are encouraged to wear something green (which can even be a sticker), and your reps have to help count which grade wins the "Green Out" award...

Anti-Bullying. Do not pass Go or collect $200, go directly to Rachel's Challenge, the national program started by the parents of a girl who was killed in Columbine. They have a K-5 program called "KC Club" and offer tons of anti-bullying & acceptance/tolerance resources. Some activities you could do: a kindness-themed poster contest that your kids plan and execute, and invite local "celebrity judges" (PTA pres, principal, art teacher, etc.) to pick winners...

Character. No elementary kid is too young to understand that character is how you behave when no one is looking. Not sure what the campus-wide activities could be but there is SO much out there about how to instill this in elem-aged kids.

Service. Let your reps lead a campus-wide selection of a charity (at this age, anything to do with animals is good, and avoids a lot of the political baggage that can come with other non-profit partnerships). Sponsors could "pre-select" 5 or 6 groups that would be suitable, and then your kids can collect research on each one and create displays to inform the rest of the student body about each group.

Then on a certain day, every student at school gets to drop a ballot in the box for the charity they want most. Then your reps can run a penny drive for the winner. (I know you said "no fundraising" but I interpreted that to mean "no activities like selling wrapping paper or cookie dough which are essentially asking parents to write checks and manage the efforts of the actual selling") Weigh the pennies contributed to find the winner and then have the reps organize the counting, sorting, rolling and converting the pennies to a donation. Have them make a Big Check for a presentation to the charity's representative at a school assembly.

(I would not recommend a food drive or drive for other clothing/supplies. Those are better done in other venues. But a penny drive is something different that many kids haven't done before, and plus it's something that any kid on the campus can afford to participate in.)

Do you have a school carnival? The student government could sponsor a booth.

Are there other schools in your district doing this program? (Ideally, at an elementary school that feeds into the same middle school) Consider a "leadership swap" where the kids get to spend a half-day having class/lunch at the other school, being "hosted" by their counterparts.

If the school doesn't already have its "core values" established and promoted, maybe the reps could select them through a parliamentary process. For ex: let's say they end up being, "Respect, Integrity, Kindness, Spirit". Reps could create a campus-wide program to honor the monthly ambassadors of each value, and design the physical award that the ambassador gets to keep in his or her classroom that month.

Really there is very little in elementary programming that can't be adapted for use in a student government program.
posted by pineapple at 8:52 PM on October 17, 2010

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