The four Student Voices honorees from Greene Street Friends School (Grace, Levi, True, and Zivia) are all in Kiri Harris’s sixth grade class. When Kiri, who has been teaching at Greene Street for almost 14 years, emailed us her students’ work, she mentioned that the Student Voices prompt offered a great tie-in with the school’s integrity theme this year. Two years ago, the staff at Greene Street decided to incorporate the famous Quaker SPICES into their curricula by focusing on one of the testimonies (starting with simplicity) as a school-wide theme each year. That the first Student Voices prompt picked by Friends Journal matched up with Greene Street’s rotation of the testimonies was a happy coincidence. “The integrity theme has really taken off,” says Kiri. “It’s great to know that integrity is on everybody’s mind at the school.”
Kiri shared that integrity and other Quaker ideas have risen to the surface in some noticeable ways. For example, there is a Quaker Ways Committee that introduces mini themes throughout the year. These “words of the month” help center the community around key Quaker concepts, such as query, moved to speak, and witness. When a query about integrity was introduced in meeting for worship, a few very talkative (or popcorn) sessions followed, with many students sharing very short messages, such as “be kind” and “listen to your teachers.” While the shift toward sharing was wonderful, it also felt like a teachable moment. Kiri’s sixth-grade class volunteered to help younger students learn how to infuse a message with a connection or story. The students tried their hands at this question: “If you were to stand up and talk about integrity in meeting for worship, what would you say?” And then they modeled these messages in a short video for the lower school. After this exercise, Kiri decided to expand it into a personal narrative writing assignment for the whole class. She asked them to consider: “How would you tell a story that would teach someone about the value of integrity?”
All of the stories the students wrote are true. “One of the things we noticed is that it’s much easier to identify the absence of integrity rather than the presence of it. So many of their stories spoke about when they made the wrong choice,” Kiri told us. “It was a great assignment for sixth graders, because they’re at the age when they’re developing the link between concrete and abstract. So when we throw an abstract concept their way, they just need a little boost to make the connection to a concrete example. It was nice to be able to use the Friends Journal assignment as a plug-in assignment for my class.”
Honorees of this year’s Student Voices Project received a free one-year subscription to Friends Journal plus a letter of recognition and a certificate of achievement from Friends Council on Education.