Over the past year, Grade 7 students at Kerrisdale Elementary participated in a new and innovative leadership program. The Kerrisdale Emerging Leaders Program (KELP) was designed by Ahmed Rahim, consultant and educator at The Refinery Leadership Partners, and is targeted towards students in the last two years of elementary school as they prepare to move on to high school.
"The Refinery works with executives and managers of people to enhance their capacity as leaders, both in their professional and personal lives," says Rahim. "I brought in a lot of the experiential work that I do with adults into the classroom."
Over five years ago, Rahim completed a year-long masters' practicum in Educational Psychology, of which 12 weeks was at Kerrisdale Elementary. Since then he has continued to volunteer at the school, exploring and developing programs that focus on social and emotional learning (SEL).
"This past year, many of the Grade 4 students I taught years ago were entering Grade 7. I had a personal connection with them and wanted them to succeed on a deeper level. Give them something to leave with," says Rahim.
In the KELP program, students build community, explore their own learning and communication preferences, and develop a deeper understanding of the learning and collaborative needs of others.
"The first term focuses on how we learn as individuals, where we explore what works best for you as an individual, and how you interact and engage with others," says Kerrisdale teacher Jane Spencer. "In the second term, the students extend their connections with others by working in groups to develop leadership skills and strengthen their skills of collaboration."
Students also used the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and LEGO StrategicPlay method to develop and represent their personal insights.
Personal development activities included a trip to a climbing wall.
"Students worked to navigate their anxiety and excitement, while having to problem-solve how to get up the wall," adds Spencer. "Meanwhile, students were encouraging others to succeed."
In the second term, students practiced teamwork, which culminated in a capstone challenge during which they worked in groups to create and serve a 3-course menu in 90 minutes. End-to-end, the challenge involved planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, and serving meals to the other group.
"Most of the kids are at a point where you could have an advanced and mature conversation about personality types, like asking 'how does your introversion show up in this instance?' They are so open to learning," say Rahim.
The four tenets of KELP are Awareness and Appreciation of Self, Awareness and Appreciation of Others, Planning, and Communication.
"If you are going be a leader, you have to start with knowing yourself," he says.
This short video gives a unique perspective on what values, skills, and insights the students took away from the program.