This activity allows students the opportunity to survey their school climate, enabling them to assess changes within their school’s culture, building, or staff.
- Access to electronic survey handout or a paper copy of handout
- Writing utensil
- Internet access
- Dry-erase board with markers
- Camera/cellphone camera
1.5 hours (In order to allow for hall hopping, brainstorming, and discussion time, plan on this taking one to two class periods if occurring during the school day. If occurring after school, plan on the hour directly after the last bell to ensure opportunities for students to interview others.)
(Note: This activity should be carried out with a trustworthy group in pairs or small groups during a normal school day. Notify your administration prior to the day of the survey. The staff and faculty should also be notified prior to releasing students into the hallways.)
- Ask students how they would describe the building’s atmosphere. Ask how they believe that they can best serve or help the school.
- Students—led by one scribe—will write down ideas on the dry-erase board.
- Ask students why they think these ideas will help serve the school community; ask them for evidence to back up their ideas.
- Tell them to “hit the halls” and talk with their peers, faculty, and staff to find out what changes or challenges truly exist.
- Pass out a worksheet, or share an electronic document (see sample in “Surveying the Scene Handout”). Ask students to follow the tasks below and gather ideas, photos, etc. Students could also post photos, videos, etc., to a group-shared electronic document.
- Ask students to review and share what they have learned. Students can document electronic pieces online as a whole group, or the scribe can list the ideas and topics on the dry-erase board. Consider what topics or new changes the student body, faculty, and staff should take action on or be enlightened about.
Create a plan to relay this information to the school community. Consider using your school’s camera or video equipment to create a product to present to the school via social media, video, or news broadcast. You could even incorporate your school’s student-run news website or daily broadcast.
Sara Mooney is a secondary English and journalism teacher at Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, PA.
Sidebar: Surveying the Scene Handout
Complete and answer the following tasks and questions as you and your group take to the hallways to assess the school’s climate.
- Walk through the building and look around at the walls, classrooms, etc., to see what is new or what looks different. Make a list.
- Find a minimum of two students, two staff, and two faculty members to interview, and ask them how their year is going so far. Ask them to elaborate (ask why). Include at least two direct quotes from each person.
- In your questioning, ask them to consider what is new—procedures, classes, programs, spaces, etc. List their responses.
- Use a camera or your cellphone to take a few photos or videos, if you can.
- Head back to the classroom when finished and share results.