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Community Collaboration – Because It Takes a Village

Justina Law - Assistant Principal RVS Online - Most of us are familiar with the African proverb, “it takes a village…to raise a child.” In the context of education, schools are not stand-alone entities. Our buildings, staff and students are all parts of greater communities. Rocky View Schools’ (RVS) unique disposition is the very make-up of the diverse communities that we serve. From the west, to the north, to the east, we are developing and preparing students to become future leaders, critical thinkers, communicators, and collaborators within their immediate communities, and the world at large.

I was recently invited to enter our school (Rocky View Community Learning Centre – Airdrie/Rocky View Schools Online) as a parade float in the annual Airdrie Santa Claus Parade. I must admit I was hesitant, as it seemed to me to be a large undertaking within a short amount of time. Still, I brought the idea forward to both staff and students, who, to my amazement, immediately set to work in securing time, labour, energy and materials, not only from within our own school programs, but also from RVS’ divisional office and our community partners.

Staff, students and community partners collaboratively came together from RVS Mechanics, Building Futures, RVSCLC-Airdrie, RVS Online, Cam Clark Ford and McKee Homes, some having never met or worked with each other before. While not without some challenges, I watched as the project took shape from start to finish, with staff and students fully leading the planning, building, decorating and storing of a work of art, worthy of display to the community. They beamed with pride, walking and riding alongside RVS’ mascot, Rocky the Raccoon, in this year’s chilly, but well-attended Santa Claus Parade.

In the words of Helen Keller: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Our students are most fortunate to have community partners who invest the time and energy into working with, and sharing their experiences and expertise, to provide rich opportunities in which our students can learn and grow. By affording such opportunities, students learn that they are important contributors within their communities, not only in the future, but that they are valuable entities of society, right now.

According to Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass (2012), school–business partnerships can support the cre­ation of learning experiences that foster students’ abilities to connect academic content to a real-world context. They maintain these partnerships provide for authentic instruction and problem-based learning that will help students deal with real problems in their lives. By purposefully building relationships, and strengthening our partnerships within the community, together, we can create engaged learners who “make a difference in their life, school, community and the world”…“because it takes a village.”

Willems, P., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. (2012). School–community partnerships: Using authen­tic contexts to academically motivate students. School Community Journal, 22(2), 9–30. Retrieved from http://www.schoolcommunitynetwork.org/SCJ.aspx