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A Season of Connection

December: What a great time of year!

From school music concerts and book fairs to Illuminate Isanti and Santa’s annual visit to the Wolcyn Tree Farm — hardy Minnesotans know there is no reason to hunker down in December. It’s a time to get out and connect with others in our community. And these traditions mean much more than celebrating the season. From caroling to service projects to ugly sweater parties, connecting with others is good for the soul. 

Social connection is especially important for children during the prime of their development. Most of us have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs. Originally published in the 1950s, Maslow tells us there are five important needs in human development: 1. physiological needs (food, water, nutrients, movement), 2. shelter, 3. love and belonging, 4. esteem (respect, freedom, recognition), and 5. self-actualization (fulfilling one’s potential). According to Maslow, belonging or feeling part of a group larger than oneself—such as a community, faith-based organization, volunteer organization, team, interest or learning group, or club—is essential for thriving as a human.

In schools, we have long believed that learning is a social enterprise. When students share ideas, read aloud and do group projects, they learn from others. They learn there are a variety of perspectives, which bring richer understanding and deeper learning. They learn that no one has all the answers, but together they can find a solution. They learn that belonging to a community requires respect, responsibility, and compassion. And when they are out in our community — serving others, performing a concert, or buying things at a store — they learn that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Some of the ways our schools are working to promote compassion and social connectedness this month include:

  • The Baby Cafe, a partnership of our Early Childhood Family Education program and Isanti County Public Health, is open each week to engage and connect young families, providing additional support they need.

  • At our primary schools, students are writing messages of appreciation, care and compassion to adults who make a difference in their lives.

  • C-I STEAM School hosted a Community Connection Night and STEAM Family Night focused on Math education.

  • Our middle schools hosted their annual People & Pets Food Drive (with a friendly competition between the two schools to see who can bring in the most items).

  • CIHS Model UN hosted a Royal Winter Wonderland dance last week for all grades in the school.

  • Adult Pick-up Volleyball (18+), among other adult recreational opportunities through Community Education, is a great way to stay active and meet new people in our community.

The need for human connection doesn’t stop with childhood. Multiple studies demonstrate that fostering human connection is critical to health and wellness. Studies show that high social connection is associated with the lower rates of mortality, stronger immune systems, and better mental health. There is powerful evidence behind social connection and health. 

Our schools invite everyone in our community to connect. Whether you attend a theater performance or a basketball game, volunteer in our schools or work with our students in your business, join a community education class or come in for open swim. Don’t hunker down in December. We encourage you to get out and connect. Our schools are your schools.

Nate Rudolph


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