Community Agreement

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Students start the week off by discussing what it means to be part of a community and establishing group norms for their visit at IslandWood.  This is a living document that can be adapted throughout the week as the group's needs change. 

Lesson Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • Define the word "community"
  • Express their hopes and concerns for the group experience.
  • Explain how they intend to treat others in the group, and how they wish to be treated.



Age group: any

Venue: Varies

Materials: large butcher paper, markers

Time: 60 minutes



The Lesson Plan: 


What kind of agreements do we need to make as a team in order to have the best week possible together? What do you need from your teammates? What can you give to your teammates? 

The Activity:

  • Explain to the students that you will be together most of each day that they are at IslandWood. You will be exploring and learning together, and will need to rely on one another from carrying parts of lunch to accomplishing team challenges on the teams course. In order to be a solid team, the team needs to develop an understanding about what to expect or ask of one another.
  • Open up the butcher paper, on the non-mind-map side. This big paper may have just a circle, or a circle of small circles (the number of kids, plus yourself and the chaperone/s), or some other shape that suits your style.
  • Then, pick one of the small circles and draw a representation of yourself--be it a face, stick figure, simple face and perhaps a stick-action-figure body. Write your name on it.
  • Then, explain that inside the circle of circles, you will write something that you hope will be a part of the group's experience (asking questions, respect, being nice, enthusiasm...).
  • On the outside, write one word for something you hope will not be a part of the group's experience (put-downs, pushing, name-calling, hurting plants and animals...).
  • Then, invite them all to choose a circle, make a representation of themselves, and then add an idea or two on the inside and the outside of the circle. Remind them that this should be fun, but that it is also serious, so please really think about what they write, and where they put it.


  • Use a simple team activity (ex: team has to arrange themselves in a chronological birth date order without speaking) before the community agreement so that students feel the need for communication norms.  After the activity, debrief.  Let the debrief lead into the community agreement. After the community agreement is complete, do another team building activity so that students can put into practice the agreement that they just designed (like lava crossing, gutters, human knot).  Allow time for them to change the document if needed. 
  • Facilitating a Community Agreement

Ways to revisit the Community Agreement

  • Weaved into team building
  • Bring out when a disagreement occurs
  • Do a daily check-in with students about how they feel
  • Journal reflection at the beginning of the day
  • Ask students to each focus on one word from the agreement and make that word the focus of the day
  • Ask kids to choose when they have reached a high point as a group & bring out the community agreement
  • Use at teams course for students to set goals
  • Adjust when a new student joins the group or leaves the group
  • When you're going to supergroup with another team


Alternative Community Agreement Approaches

There are a plethora of ways to create a community agreement.  Be creative, have fun, and don't be afraid to try something new!

  • Wearable Community Agreement:
    • This version of the community agreement is suited for active students, who have trouble staying seated for 30 minutes.  
    • Each student is handed an index card and one side they write a positive characteristic (curiosity, happiness, enthusiasm, brains, etc.) that they bring to the team, and on the back have them write qualities they like in a team or in a friend.  
    • String the cards onto some yarn and have the students wear the community agreement.  If an incident happens, point out the visible and accessible community agreement.  
    • It may also be used as positive reinforcement--if the community agreement wearer observes someone else in the team being a good team member or actively living the community agreement in some way, he or she may hand off the necklace.  This needs reiteration and reinforcement by the instructor to get the kids involved in the process.  
    • Encourage an exchange of the community agreement to happen often.  
    • Be creative and alter to how you see fit.  For example, cut out yellow circles instead of index cards and call it some "Team Bling", to get the kids more hooked on the idea.
  • Communi-tree Agreement:  
    • You may have the students silently answer questions in their journal that you have prewritten.  
    • After the discussion of what a community is, you may introduce that this field group is a community this week. You will also be able to look back and understand which answers are in reference to which question in their journals.You may use a whiteboard to list the questions or prewrite on butcher paper.
    • These questions may include things like: what will you bring to our community this week (ie: personal characteristics, attributes), how are we going to act in this community (ie: behavior wise), what you love about your personality, and additional questions such as what are you excited for this week, what would you like me to know about you, and what would you like to know about me (the instructor).  
    • From here you may bring out your butcher paper that has a pre-drawn large tree on it, titled “Communi-Tree agreement”, with the 3 major parts being the roots, trunk, and the fruit of the tree.  
    • The roots will be what each person is bringing to the community, or feeding and aiding in the growth of the team communi-tree.  
    • The trunk will be what how they will act in their team community.  They may pair share or be put into groups to create a skit which could ease some wiggles that need to be let out.  
    • The leaves and fruit of the tree will be what these qualities will foster for the group to have a good week.  Make sure to add anything they mention to the top part of your tree. If you have time you can continue to share the questions you have asked. After they have completed the agreement have them tell you if they agree with everything written on the butcher paper.
    • If you get all thumbs up, have them sign it to seal your agreement for the week. You can always remind them of the agreement they signed throughout the week if behavioral problems are present
  • Communi-bee Agreement:  
    • The garden is a great place to introduce community and lead into a community agreement! Bees are just so darn interesting and kids are generally enthralled by them.  
    • One idea is to grab the informative bee posters from the greenhouse and lay them out in the greenhouse.  
    • Put the students into pairs (boy-girl is a nice method) and have them choose a poster they'd like to learn more about.  
    • Allow them to choose a place around the garden and learn about their bees.  
    • After about 5-10 minutes, meet by the bees to do some sharing on what they learned.
    •  Encourage the students not to read directly from the card but use their words and skills to explain to the group what is going on in their poster.  
    • As students share, point out the various roles bees have in the hive, or ask the students to (queen bee, nurse bees, worker bees, etc).  
    • When all is finished, tell the kids that just like the bees, we will be a working together as a social community, working together all week long.
    •  Return to the greenhouse and sit around the table.  Whip out your premade communi-bee agreement (A cute idea is to have a honeycomb cell for each student, color in a little honey in each cell).  
    • Explain that we will be creating this agreement so we can all work together well this week.  Model for the students in your own cell by writing something you are bringing to the team and/or something you need from the team.  P.R.O.P.S. is a great one for this modeling.  Allow the students to fill in their cells and sign.
  • Communi-tea Agreement:  
    • Another fun way to introduce your students to the garden and get them thinking about community is to make your own tea in the garden and clink your tea cups together to celebrate the beginning of a great week!
    • Introduce the students to the garden by taking a quick tasting tour around it and have them notice the signs on the plants (they are made by students who planted them so that other students can harvest and eat them).
    • Come back to a space where you can sit down to have a short discussion with the students, the green house or the seating area outside work well.
    • Now is the time to bring out your premade Communi-tea poster (one idea is to have teacups for each student and a big tea pot to write how they will contribute to the team).
    • Ask each student to think about one characteristic that they identify themselves with.  Model and example for them: “I chose curious as my quality because I am always curious to learn more.” They should add their name and characteristic to a tea cup of their choice.
    • Once everyone has contributed, share with the students that they are each going to gather herbs in our harvest baskets (one cupped hand’s worth of herbs) from the garden to create their very own tea.
    • When the students are back, make sure that you have boiled the kettle and filled the jug.
    • Ask the children to add their herbs one at a time, and as they add their herbs to the Communi-tea they should say how they are going to contribute to the team community during the week. Make sure you add what they say to the tea pot in the Communi-tea poster.
    • Once they have all added their herbs in, give the tea a good mix and serve it up. Finally, clink to a good start to the week! *Try to add a beet to the tea, it gives it a fun color.
  • Living Machine Community Agreement:
    • The Living Machine is a useful space for helping students think about systems and connections as they work to create their community agreement for the week.
    • Use the introductory questions from the Systems and Stewardship at the Living Machine lesson plan to introduce students to the space. Give them a little time to explore. Encourage them to share what they notice and wonder, and speculate on what the structures around them might be/how they work as a system/why they are called a “living machine.”
    • Bring the group back together to share some of the things they noticed about the Living Machine.
    • Tell them that just like human beings, plants, and bacteria come together and work as a system to filter wastewater here, you are going to think about how to work like a well designed system together this week.
    • Because the Living Machine’s filter system works, the koi swimming in the filtered water have a comfortable place to live.
    • By creating a community agreement, the group can be an effective learning community and have a safe, fun week together - a good result, just like for the koi!
    • Bring out your premade poster - have some of the tubs of taro plants drawn at one end, and a koi pond at the other. The taro tubs will be a space for students to write how they plan to show respect and help each other learn in the week ahead, and the koi pond will be a space for signatures.
    • Give students time to discuss what they’d like to add to the community agreement before writing things down - a pair and share can be good if some don’t want to share their initial thoughts with the whole group.
    • Have students add their ideas to the poster on and around the taro plants. Once everyone has contributed, students sign by drawing themselves as koi in the pond, enjoying the benefits of all the agreements they have made to support each other!

Useful Links:

Relevant Journal Pages:

  • "Teamwork", pg. 2

Transfer of Learning:

  • What communities are you a part of outside of Islandwood? 
  • How is what you know about being a part of another community going to help you this week at Islandwood? 
  • How will this help you at home? In the Future?