An Innovative Program at Thoreau Demonstration Academy

Thursday, March 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's what many of us think of as "home room."

The first 20 minutes of the day, where in most schools, teachers read announcements and lunch menus.

At Thoreau Demonstration Academy, the time is devoted to a program called "Tribes."

It's purpose: teaching students how to work within a group... building community and inclusion... that some educators say leads to better learning.

Liz Martin, Thoreau Counselor: "When you don't feel included in a group, you don't do as well. So it's not just researched based; it's common sense. When you feel a sense of inclusion, you perform at a higher level."

The "Tribes" model is built on four agreements: mutual respect, attentive listening, no put-downs and right to pass... meaning students don't have to answer questions every time they're called upon.
The children are divided into multi-age groups of 13, lead by a teacher or other adult.

They discuss everything from national events to personal feelings... all confidential.

Thoreau students say "Tribes" is a big help in many ways... much better than homeroom.
Brandi Bowen, Student: "It's a lot smaller, and you don't have to be afraid to express your opinion."

CJ Sanders, Student: "We talk about subjects like peer pressure and how we feel about where we work."

Ryan Higgins, Student: "It kind of shows diversity, which means everybody has their own opinion on a certain subject."

Martin says teaching kids to work well in groups is essential prep for the real world.

Some might argue that no put downs and the right to pass aren't real world.

But why can't it be? Why can't we train our children that that's the way it should be?"

Tribes supporters say it builds confidence, self esteem, and makes sutdents feel good about going to school... and that they say, is also the way it should be.