Middle School Leadership Lab Explores Stories and Citizenship

Collegiate School 6th Grade students explore their identity, share their own story and learn about the stories of others in a new Leadership Lab activity spearheaded by John Dau, Collegiate’s Global Scholar-in-Residence, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and a Human Rights Activist, and Middle School teacher Carolyn Villanueva who frequently designs curriculum that fosters deep thinking through a global lens.
In the lab, wisdom tales from Mr. Dau’s native Dinka tribe, a Nilotic ethnic group native to South Sudan, activities, invited speakers and reader’s theater are leveraged to reveal universal core values and leadership skills, as well as to actively nurture creative minds, global interests and the desire to lead.

In the class, Mr. Dau and Mrs. Villanueva often pause and ask students to be aware and be curious, and to ask questions and think openly. Recently, the two teachers asked the students to reflect on several topics.

What have you learned or connected to about leadership?
  • “We must be considerate of someone’s back story.”
  • “I learned that it’s important for us to know who we are before we try to become a leader.”
  • “Stories teach leadership in a strong way.”
  • “Stories stick”; “They help me visualize and see things and imagine possibilities.”
  • “Stories help me get perspective and see connections.”

What ideas have pushed your thinking?
  • “Sometimes people are misidentified. I’m reminded not to judge others.”
  • “The name. I never knew that a name could be so precious and so unique. It showed me how every person is an individual.”

What still challenges you about leadership?
  • “It is still challenging to always be asked to do this work; to be asked to always get it right.”
  • “How do effective leaders push through these challenges?”
  • “If a leader fails, why are we not more forgiving?”  

The Leadership Lab students recently toured part of the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, including a stop at the Center for Civic Engagement. They spent time in a college classroom learning about the progression and breadth of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond and participated in mock discussions around leadership history, ethics and critical thinking.

The work and growth in Leadership Lab will enable students to reflect on how they would like to lead others and eventually design their own pathway to leadership.