The phrase “advocate for yourself” is commonly used in social emotional learning curriculums, and this week at Coastside Leadership Academy, we took a deeper look into what it means to be self advocates. At CLA being a self advocate means identifying your personal needs and then communicating them effectively. This week we began talking about personal needs with a lesson about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a Psychology theory that says for people to reach self-actualization, basic and psychological needs must be met. Maslow created a pyramid to explain his theory to depict human motivation and well being. We made a handout with a visual of the five levels of the pyramid for students to look at and get a feel for the relationships between the different types of human needs.
Maslow says that the base level of needs is food, water, shelter, and sleep, the second level is safety needs, and then the third level is connection with others. When a student’s basic needs are met, they can start to move up the pyramid to feel safe, and then move on to feeling connected to the community.
During our lesson we created our own Hierarchy of Needs pyramid using colorful post-its and sticks. Each community member identified a few personal needs for the different levels. One of our students organically brought up that learning happens at the fourth level of the pyramid. This is exactly the lesson we were hoping our students would learn! Until a solid foundation of met needs is created, learning is difficult. If a student is hungry, sleep deprived, and doesn’t feel safe or seen, it is human nature to not be able to focus on or prioritize school work. Three levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs must be met before students can move on to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a method of learning. At CLA we like to say “Maslow then Bloom” and intentionally take time with our community to make sure the first three levels are taken care of at the beginning of the year.
I am proud of our student for noticing where learning is in the hierarchy on her own, and I hope all of them are able to apply this lesson to their lives. Our lesson about Maslow normalized personal needs and encouraged students to be aware of their own. To close, we had every student identify one need they had that day, and practice communicating it to the group. We said we would do our best to help them meet that need.
“I need a hug,” one student said.
“Can I give you a hug?” Lindsay asked with open arms.
Our student lit up with a smile.
Our student advocated and then they received– safety, connection, and most importantly, love.