If you read the comments, you'll see the idea has evolved to encompass a much broader idea of Empathy Modules (alternative names welcome.) To join me in building this idea, check out this Google Doc.
This idea was introduced to me at a NWAIS workshop presented by Westside School in Seattle, WA.
We are an independent school, grades 5-12. The idea is to create groups of 14-18 students comprised of students from each grade plus 2-3 faculty/admin advisors. These groups will remain intact, theoretically, for as many years as the program runs. Each year the seniors and other outgoing students are replaced by new 5th, 6th, and 9th graders, as well as random new students, while the core group of students stays together. It will need at least 4 years to get into full swing and 8 years to see the true impact on the community.
Creating these cohorts will provide continuity and touchstones for acting on the mission of the school to teach responsibility, embrace diversity, and foster compassion. Some examples of the goals will be 1) to really get to know each other, share what’s going on in their lives as individuals, and reflect and process community concerns/celebrations; 2) enable older students to lead and mentor the younger ones; 3) have fun engaging in team-building sessions and friendly competitions with other packs.
For this kind of program to be most effective it needs structure and passion at the core. I envision a committee of faculty and administrators who coordinate to design activities, provide scaffolding for the adults, and oversee the logistical planning and implementation.
Lastly, I believe this aligns with an Experiential Education program – through a well-thought out “curriculum” students will learn about themselves, how they fit within a community, how to support a community, and learn to empathize with others by experiencing it first hand through real-life engagement.
Because these groups are large and diverse, and don’t meet as frequently as advisory groups, a school need not be concerned about personality clashes, in fact I think it’s better to allow for the randomness that may happen. Ideally the Wolf Packs will meet for 30-50 minutes once per month.