Schools and Community Development

The well-being of children and youth as they grow, learn, and develop is central to the connection between families, schools, and community development. From the earliest times among Aboriginal peoples, and then later with immigrant settlers, the entire community often shared in the responsibility of raising and teaching children and youth. During the period of the one-room school, the schoolhouse was often a central gathering place serving many purposes for people of all ages. “Work Bees” provide another example of people working together to address needs, strengthen local opportunities, and build community and community spirit. In addition to providing day-to-day instruction, schools have worked with members of the community to organize nutrition programs, community kitchens, clothing exchanges, parenting support groups, and locating social and health services such as immunization clinics and safety programs. A number of schools share resources and space to provide daycare programs in high schools, family and seniors’ computer times, pre-kindergarten programs, first aid programs, dance classes, family literacy initiatives, and continuing and adult education programs.

Schools rely on the knowledge and expertise of members of the community to enhance learning: senior citizens are often invited to talk about the past; when schools engage with First Nations and Métis communities to honour traditional ways of knowing, they begin with the inclusion of Elders. Locally developed curriculum initiatives, in such areas as history and culture, as well as agriculture and forestry, enrich student learning and strengthen the relationship between the community and the schools. Parents contribute to leadership in schools by joining committees and governance bodies such as school boards, parent teaching associations, community school councils, and sharing circles. Through such groups, development can occur for the benefit of the entire community in conjunction with local town councils and other community groups. Recreation programs and the joint use of buildings and facilities are notable examples, common in Saskatchewan, where partnerships benefit the entire community. Many schools continue to be at the heart of community development initiatives in the province.

Ted Amendt, Sue Bland, Faye Moen