Description: The Brewster inspirED Team had a vision for a more passionate, purposeful school community. They designed their own inspirED activities for all students, so that freshmen through seniors have the opportunity to connect based on shared interests and experiences.
The Opportunity: Brewster Academy is boarding school in rural New Hampshire. For the past few years, the school has been working to include social and emotional learning with the RULER program. InspirED was the perfect addition to their work. By launching an inspirED team in their school, Brewster students moved to the frontlines of a movement to improve school climate.
The Brewster inspirED Team’s work began with the results of their school climate assessment. With these data, they were able to identify the emotions their school community members felt most and least often, as well as the aspects of school climate that were most and least in need of attention. The Brewster inspirED Team reviewed their school climate data as a group and discussed the emotions and issues that were most important to their peers. As a result, they chose to focus on bringing passion and purpose to their school community.
“We believed that if someone lives life with passion and purpose, then everything else will fall into place.” –inspirED team member, Dexter Hanson,
The Project: With the goal of promoting a sense of passion and purpose, the Brewster Team was ready to take action. The recruited two faculty advisors, Allie Cooper and Bret Barnett, to support students in developing and implementing plans. The team started small, using activities from the inspirED site that were specifically designed to connect participants to a sense of passion and purpose. They hosted activities such as 7 Questions to help students share and develop their own passions.
After a few months, the Brewster inspirED Team was ready to take on a bigger project. Instead of taking activities from the inspirED site, they were motivated to share their own work with other inspirED teams across the nation. They began developing and writing inspirED activities that they believed would bring students closer to certain emotions they wanted to feel in school, like connected, supported, respected, valued, and of course, passion and purpose. One favorite was “Speed Dating with Purpose,” a game in which participants to talk about their passions and learn about others’ in hopes of fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the diverse purposes which drive us every day. Because of their work on these activities, “Speed Dating with Purpose” and other Brewster activities were added to the inspirED site.
To introduce their work to the school community, inspirED Team members participated in a school-wide student project showcase, where they explained the activities they had written. At this event, team members explained the thinking behind the activities they had developed for the website, and their hopes for the future of inspirED at their school. They made their audience laugh with creative, fun images they had taken to illustrate the activities.
The Impact: As the Brewster team enters their second year of inspirED work, they have much to celebrate. The colorfully decorated hallways and vibrant conversation across their campus serve as examples of their team’s transformative efforts. Through their efforts, new and returning students at Brewster will encounter multiple opportunities to connect to their shared passions and experiences. Freshman orientation will now be host to a “Passion Olympics,” where new students are encouraged to connect with like-minded peers and participate in shared passions upon coming to Brewster for the first time. A student-run website keeps campus members up-to-date on ways to stay active during the colder and sometimes depressing winter months.
After attending the inspirED Social and Emotional Learning Summit at Facebook HQ in October 2016, the Brewster team was refreshed and motivated to continue their work. Back on campus in New Hampshire, they put together a video displaying the many passions of their student body. Students were asked to submit pictures of them engaging in something they felt passionate about, and the clips were edited into a single video with a catchy tune. This activity allowed students to witness their peers’ passions, and prompted many different conversations between students with shared passions. Through these activities, bonds have formed, friendships have strengthened, and passions have revitalized.
The Future: InspirED activities are still performed frequently at Brewster, as the team continues their work towards improving school climate. The latest conversation has centered around creating achievable goals related to one’s passions and sense of purpose.