Building a Middle School Community

As the PKS middle school expands, we are working hard to maintain the feelings of a small, close-knit community. Part of this effort included an opening week with daily, "all middle school" activities. We went on a scavenger hunt in Chinatown. We went to a ramen making (and eating!) workshop in the Mission. We came together as a middle school to draft community norms and expectations.

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A few weekends ago we took this team building one-step further and did an all middle school camping trip to China Camp State Park. Each middle school advisory group was in charge of planning and cooking one meal. Each student was given the responsibility to set up, keep clean, and strike a tent. And each morning and evening we circled up to share stories, offer "roses and thorns," and speak honestly with each other about what we all need (individually and collectively) to have a successful school year.

Thoreau often wrote about "the tonic of wildness" - the way our urban routines can be happily disrupted by the sounds and unpredictability of nature. On our first day, as we set up tents, a dust storm struck. That night, as we slept, the skies opened in a downpour. There were mosquito bites, burnt smores, and smelly tentmates.

But beyond all this, there was joy, there was camaraderie, and there was a welcome change of pace. We enjoyed the tonic of the wild.