The PACT Process: Building a School Community Where Everyone Thrives

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The Eagle Rock community has always prided itself on a tradition of coming together to create positive change. We believe that a thriving educational community is the direct result of skills, structures, and trusting relationships that are constructed through effective change processes.

As a result, school leadership, staff, and students are gathering together for a school-wide afternoon class during the second five weeks of our current trimester (ER 77) to explore an Enduring Understanding that affects us all. (For those unfamiliar with the language, an enduring understanding is a statement summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom.) The end result is to collectively bring our entire community together to learn and grow. The belief is that everyone involved will leave the process with a deeper understanding of each other, the skills to make positive change in communities, and specific structures that will make Eagle Rock a stronger community.

We are calling this afternoon course, “Participatory Action Community Time,” or PACT, which focuses specifically on five main areas:

  • Real-World, Passion-Based Learning
  • College, Career, and Community Readiness
  • Becoming Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations
  • Rites of Passage and Celebrations
  • Restorative Practices

Specifically, we will meet together every afternoon to learn the steps of Liberatory Design Thinking, and we will use this process to design structures and processes to improve Eagle Rock. The framework will be a Liberatory Design Thinking process, as shown in the figure below:

Liberatory Design Thinking

  • Notice:  Who am I and what am I bringing to this process?
  • Empathize:  Who are you and what is your experience?
  • Define:  What is the challenge we are addressing?
  • Ideate:  What ideas can we create to address the challenge?
  • Prototype:  How can we create a detailed model of our best idea?
  • Test:  What feedback do people have about our prototype?
  • Reflect:  What have I learned about myself and my perspective?

By going through the steps of this process, Eagle Rock School students and staff will examine their topic through a framework of understanding themselves (Notice) and others (Empathize). Then, they Define a specific design challenge that they want to answer.

An example might be, “How can we design Rites of Passage at Eagle Rock that challenge students to grow and honor that growth?” In the remaining steps of the process, groups will brainstorm ideas (Ideate), choose a particular idea to Prototype, and then Test and Reflect by getting feedback from others and reflecting themselves.

In a letter delivered to the Eagle Rock community late last year, we termed this process “one of the most exciting, generative moments in Eagle Rock’s history [in which we will seek] to answer the essential question of, “How do we build a community where everyone thrives?”

If building a community where everyone thrives is our broad primary outcome (i.e., our goal), then among the objectives of the process are:

  • Building healthy relationships and culture by successfully going through a collective change process
  • Building strong academic and real-world skills for students
  • Building structures and agreements that allow for clarity and shared purpose

We will be breaking out in groups co-led by members of our Instructional and Student Services teams and will be focused on the five areas outlined above. Each working group will the present proposals and a plan for implementation and evaluation.

One of our objectives is to ensure that PACT will be a rigorous, credit-bearing learning experience, and students will earn Leadership For Justice (LFJ) credit in a competency-based fashion. The course will also provide opportunity to earn LFJ distribution credit, with extension options for those who want to earn Power Standard credit. (For an explanation of Power Standardsand Distribution Requirements, please read: “The Role of Power Standards in this Trimester’s Class Offerings” from Jan. 23 of this year.)

In addition, all students who participate in the process will earn their Service-Learning portfolio credit.

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