“One of my goals is to leave the school in a better place than I found it.” Grade 10 student Mazin Habib explains why participating in the Student Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC) was important to him. SPARC is a research consortium that mobilizes student insights and voices to improve school culture, policy and practice.
Mazin and thirteen other Grade 10 Crescent students established two focus areas for their research. The first was to investigate loneliness and belonging in boys and determine strategies that increase a sense of belonging. The second was targeting the power of student-teacher relationships and how they can lead to academic success. “They identified a need within their school, developed research questions, made a plan, gathered and analyzed the data, and formulated solutions,” says Trish Cislak, Crescent’s Head of Libraries and Research, who plays a supervisory role in the SPARC program. The two research groups met regularly throughout the year, receiving support from Dr. Joseph Nelson, the SPARC research coordinator and a member of the CCBE Advisory Panel.
Surveys and focus groups conducted by the loneliness and belonging teams showed the boys’ reluctance to be vulnerable in front of others; the pandemic has also influenced their feelings of loneliness. Their recommendations emphasized activities that build community, such as Mentor Group, extracurricular programming, and more. Regarding student-teacher relationships, 94% of students reported that they value their relationships with teachers. They indicated a desire to take a more active role in managing those relationships, outlining critical steps called The Three C’s: Communication, connection, and cooperation.
In April, the boys travelled to the University of Pennsylvania — the only Canadian contingent among 12 other independent schools from the northeastern United States. They shared their research findings through presentations and a roundtable discussion. “We were able to talk with the other students and share our methods, helping both sides see what they did well or could have done better,” shared Mazin and his teammate Hong Duc Cheng. “We shared some really good ideas through these interactions, and we hope to apply them in future research projects!”