Student-led Days

At Coastside Leadership Academy we have established a daily routine. We start the morning with check in and mindfulness, move on to an hour of movement or play, and then have a student centered learning block. We break for an hour of lunch before another student centered learning block, and then have our closing circle. Every day looks a little different depending on our location, learning unit, or the weather, but we always stick to these elements during the day. Our students are familiar with it and appreciate the consistency. 

After taking time and care to build this routine, our students are now able to lead the day and this has become a highlight when we go on field trips. Student-led days are scaffolded. The instructors provide one location that the class is going to visit, and then from there the students make a plan for the day. We take time the day before to research the area and all of our students take on responsibilities during the day. Below is the list of leadership roles we have developed for our student-led days. 

Time keeper– Creates and implements the schedule for the day. They keep the group on track with time, letting us know when we have to leave for the next location and also provide gentle reminders to stay focused. They learn how to manage a group, plan and stay on schedule, and also to be flexible when the schedule does not go as planned.

Students navigating the streets of SF.

Navigator– Maps out all of the locations the group plans to visit and provides directions to the drivers or while the group is walking. The navigator works closely with the time keeper to make sure the schedule includes travel time. 

Check in leader– Chooses a location for check in and leads our morning emotions check in and mindfulness. They lead a group meditation to set the tone for the day.

Lunch manager– Finds a nearby park for the group to enjoy lunch together. They coordinate if the group should pack a lunch or bring money to buy it. 

Closing circle leader– Chooses a location and leads our closing circle to wrap up the day. They provide time for reflection and sharing at the end of our adventure. 

It is fun to watch student-led days unfold because our students take their roles seriously. Our most recent student-led day was to an escape room in San Francisco. We provided the students with the address for the escape room and the parking garage and they took over from there. 

Our group in Dolores Park

The entire day was a bonding experience. The students worked together on puzzles to escape the room and then we walked a few blocks to Dolores Park for lunch. We ate lunch and played on the playground. The views of the city were beautiful and we really got to enjoy each other’s company. Our lunch manager planned for us to eat ice cream at a shop across from the park and it was a huge hit!

What I love about student-led days is watching our students gather life skills like planning ahead or navigating a large group across the city, and then seeing them proud of themselves for fulfilling their role. As an instructor, it is not easy to give up control, but I remind myself to trust the process and it is ok if things get off track. When they do get off track, it’s another learning opportunity for our students to figure out where to go or what to do next, just like in life. Our student-led days show our students that we trust them and this helps our students trust themselves. Self trust is a quality I hope they keep with them beyond our outdoor classroom. 

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