Oak Knoll Launches Sixth Grade Leadership Institute

With the start of the 2022-23 school year, Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child announced a new Leadership Institute in the sixth grade that instills creative thinking, design thinking, presentation, and leadership skills. The focus in the sixth grade is to provide our oldest Lower school students the confidence-building tools they need to be leaders as they progress further into middle school.

Born out of the school’s annual Renaissance Project, this new leadership Institute began with small group projects designed to foster team-building, communication, and active listening. Following those introductory projects, students traveled to Oak Knoll’s second campus, the Chatham Fields, for a whole class retreat. After each game or activity, students met and participated in guided reflection to discuss how they worked together and functioned as a team.

Students are working on individual proposals for more in-depth initiatives that might demonstrate leadership qualities to all students in the Lower School. Based on their ideas, they will be grouped with classmates who have similar passions and will spearhead an initiative in service to their community.

“Some students are thinking about implementing a formal method of supervising younger students during recess to ease the load on faculty. Something similar is being discussed for the lunch room. We are putting our grade six students in a position to take ownership of those ideas and actually contribute through acts of service,” says Art Teacher Tim Brown. He serves as one of three advisors to the Leadership Institute. Other advisors include Religion and Social Studies teacher Leslie Smith and Language Art and Reading Teacher Mia Carty.

Having multiple advisors for the class provides the flexibility to work with the students in various individual or group settings as well as a whole class. “We are trying to give every class member a voice so they can experience the opportunity to be a leader. During group activities and challenges, we might whisper suggestions to quieter members of the grade and encourage them to return those ideas to the group. It gives them confidence when their voice is heard like that by their peers,” explains Brown.

The students will be engaged in a more extended simulation whereby they will create a whole society on a desert island. The scenario will be very fluid depending on decisions made by the class as they invent a currency, divide up roles for survival, etc. Each stage in the simulation will unfold based on a prompt from an advisor. Also, throughout the year, visiting alumni and parent speakers will present perspectives on leadership qualities and serve as role models.

“It’s been a leadership experiment for us, too,” explains Brown. “As advisors, we mapped out the curriculum over the summer, but we will collaborate throughout the year as we work together to build this new initiative and signature experience for our grade six students.”

Student praying