The Cornerstone School has created and maintains a learning environment that is safe with an expectation that students are self-disciplined and trustworthy.
With this philosophy in mind, The Cornerstone School began implementation of the Tribes Program (Gibbs, 2006) in 2006. The Tribes Program is defined as a process that builds a community of learners, a caring culture, and a responsive education that is learner/student centered. It further promotes growth of positive interpersonal relationships that create a new pattern of interaction that builds on the four Tribes agreements:
Appreciations/No Put Downs
The Right to Participate – The Right to Pass
These agreements ensure consistent implementation of behavioral expectations and promotes positive interaction among adults and students. It is a process rather than an end.
Tribes is a community wide program that integrates into the classroom curriculum. It is part of the culture of the school and also provides for valuable inter-grade connections among students. For example, Middle School students take part in an Ambassador program in which they are assigned a classroom in the lower elementary program. There, they interact with the younger students and provide support where needed. These opportunities foster long term relationships and a positive school environment. It is the norm rather than the exception for students of all ages to know each other’s names.
Another way in which these relationships are nurtured is through the school wide Tribes meeting that takes place weekly. At the beginning of each school year, students and staff are evenly placed in Tribes groups. All grades are represented. Each Tribe has its own color and symbol, and on meeting days, everyone wears his/her Tribes shirt and meets in his/her group. Every other week, a Tribes activity is planned and implemented by the eighth grade students and assigned staff. These activities provide for a fun and engaging opportunity to better know fellow students and staff.
Together, everyone participates in creating a healthy school environment. Caring for and being valued by others, participation, positive expectations and support are all necessary components of the Tribes process that promotes human growth and learning.