Since the start of the year, students ages 10 to 13 have been involved in weekly sessions of the KidLead program, which uses a variety of methods to develop leadership skills in that age group.
For the past several weeks, students in the program have been taking 90-minute classes led by certified instructors who assist them in activities to improve qualities that are grouped into four color-coded modules. Each module has four sections stressing a value, an attitude, a relationship and a decision; for instance, the red module’s sections are ethics, honor, communication and power.
As of the second week of October, the class has been working on the communication piece of the red module. “We do simple brain-wake exercises like ‘untying a human knot,’ and play special versions of charades or Pictionary to help students understand the value of various types of communication,” said Greg Lawson, assistant head of school for student affairs and one of Harker’s certified KidLead instructors. “There are dozens of activities, all of which involve teams led by the students themselves, who are given opportunities to organize, direct, communicate and provide feedback to their teammates.”
The activities are overseen, but not led, by specially trained “Koaches” who also observe and guide the group discussions. Students also take home “Leadership Challenges” every week that parents are asked to sign off on in order to foster discussions with their children about the KidLead sessions.
Harker’s KidLead program began when its founder, Dr. Alan Nelson, contacted Christopher Nikoloff, head of school, to discuss the possibility of offering it here. Lawson researched the organization and began talking with Nelson to further explore the opportunity. “The more we talked, the more it seemed like a good fit for Harker, and particularly for Harker’s BEST program,” Lawson recalled. “It was an area that our parents define as important in the educational development of their children, and while Harker offers a good deal of practical leadership experience, this program offers us the chance to provide some developmental practice to support that.”
Harker currently has four certified trainers: Lawson; Joe Connolly, dean of students K-5; Keith Hirota, middle school history teacher; and Catherine Le, grade 5 science teacher. These experts are responsible for training the Koaches who guide the weekly sessions. “We’d like to expand the group, even double it in size to be able to offer multiple modules per quarter,” Lawson said. “This year we’ll inaugurate the program with 45 students involved, and we hope that many of them will see their way through the four-module course.” To accomplish that, the program will need to expand to include more sections. “We will also look forward to bringing Dr. Nelson to Harker on a regular basis to speak with our parents about how they can best nurture the leadership development of their own children,” Lawson added.
Although the program is still new, Lawson believes it has enormous potential: “All you need to do is look at the dozens of community service opportunities, sports teams, performing arts groups, extracurriculars in general, student government, along with all the team academics like Robotics, Future Problem Solvers, etc., to know that these skills have the potential to augment the development of this next generation of Harker leaders.”