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Level Up: Improving school-based rites of passage to boost student agency and purpose

Session 3
Betty Ray — Former Director of Innovation at Edutopia. Co-Founder, Boss Battle Consulting

Every school and classroom has regular rituals or celebrations designed to mark important transitions, honor accomplishments, and bring communities closer together — from the first day of school to morning meetings, special assemblies, and graduation itself. As secular yet ritualized experiences, these activities can be intentionally designed to help your classroom or school community strengthen self-knowledge as well as relationships to peers and teachers. They can also be used to build student agency and social emotional skills, and hone their sense of purpose. And bonus! They can be designed around content.

I will kick off this session by clarifying the definition of “rites of passage” and describe the research-based benefits of a three-part structure (separation, threshold, integration). Then I will share 1-2 short stories of the impact of this tripartite rite of passage in a school and classroom setting.

With context set, participants will work in small groups to take an anthropologist’s look at the rituals and celebrations within their own schools. Using human-centered design materials and ground rules, participants will brainstorm ideas for each others’ rituals. Creative materials such as markers, post-its, pipe cleaners, and clay will be provided to help capture ideas visually and tactically.

After they’ve shared in their small group, participants may choose to share back to the room, cross-pollinating ideas and inspiring further development. They will leave with a better understanding of how to architect a meaningful transitional celebration, with specific tactical ideas for creating more meaningful and impactful experiences students and the greater school community.

Conversational Practice

Rites of passage means a lot of things to a lot of people. So after I set some context including an emphasis on the secular (10 minutes), participants will work in small groups using human-centered design prompts and physical design materials to support each other’s process of reflecting on their current rituals or rites of passage. I will provide nicely designed printed worksheets with all prompts that they can use to capture their thoughts. At the end, each group will be invited to share out so we can all hear how others are marking their transitions.

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