Community First: The Power of Human Connection in Learning and Growth

By Vicky Boomgaardt Assistant Head: CoCurriculars


At Lakefield College School, we are known for the quality of relationships that exist between and among students and staff, parents and alumni, on campus and around the world. Relationships are the cornerstone to deep learning and the lens of Community First allows us to focus on, nurture and grow these qualities that LCS students and families most value about our community.

We recently shared with our students how we plan to strengthen our community through the creation of ‘house families.’ It’s part of a strategic initiative outlined under the Community First pillar of our strategic plan: Vision. Direction. Focus. 2019|2024. 

Our vision ensures that we continually strive to fully know each and every one of our students; that we create strong connections between day and boarding, Canadian and international students; and that we continue to offer a well-rounded and enriching program including an advisory program that supports students far beyond academics.

Connecting with peers during an OE class challenge to recreate extreme sport poses.


During this extraordinary time, the importance of community and the power of human connection in learning and growth has become even more clear. 

As a boarding and day school, we have always known the importance of community and the power of human connection in learning and growth. The mindset of “being a kind caring community” is built into our DNA (and is one of our seven values). We aim to nurture a holistic mindset of authentic connection in the many aspects of our students’ lives at Lakefield. We have incredible educators who help make this happen. Our amazing natural campus also helps by providing a setting where students can nurture meaningful trusting relationships with one another, their teachers and with the natural environment.  We encourage students to spend time outdoors every day and to practice the values of safety and caring in their interactions with the environment and with each other and their families.   

Creating community through virtual spirit events like crazy hat day.

Our Small Houses and Advisory Program Bolster Our Connection as a Community

Our small houses and our advisory program encourage our students to create community by building relationships with each other, their Heads of House and their advisors. We believe that a strong community provides the foundation upon which our students can become successful learners and be leaders who care about, connect with and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways. Indeed, it is through the power of our community that we have been able to make a successful transition to Learning With Lakefield-Remotely. Our students know each other, they know their teachers, and they know their advisors. We’re beginning each day in this new remote environment in the same way we did while we were at school—in community. We’re meeting in Chapel, in advisor groups, in house groups and in co-curricular groups before we head off to class. Each of these groups represents a strong community unto itself. It is this powerful human connection with which we begin our days that is helping us to navigate this new reality. 


“To Be at Home, Is to Be Known.”

I am a big fan of Brene Brown and during this time of physical distancing she’s become my running partner, that is to say, I’m using my runs to listen to her podcasts. One of her most recent podcasts resonated deeply with me. It focussed on loneliness and connection. Brene was in a discussion with Dr. Vivek Murthy, who wrote a compelling book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World which looks at the importance of human connection and the social power of community. Listening to them talk, I couldn’t help but see the parallels and alignment with our own community-building that we do, here, at Lakefield. 

When we began the school year in September, I shared that our goal was to create a sense of belonging, the feeling that “Lakefield is home” in each of our students. So when I heard Dr. Murthy share the idea that “to be at home is to be known,” it resonated strongly. We are working to create relationships within our community that ensure that each of us (students and staff alike) are known, and in that way, feel a sense of ‘being at home.’ Dr. Murthy further shared the idea that “creating a connected life begins with the decisions we make in our day to day life.” As we support our students in navigating their days at LCS, and similarly in our remote learning world, we are helping them to “choose to make the time for the important people in their lives, encouraging them to show up as their true selves (even when, and especially when, it is messy) and to seek out others with kindness.” As we navigate our way through understanding the differences, and the things that we share in common, as a community, there can be difficult conversations. Lakefield is a place and a community in which those difficult conversations can happen, and indeed need to happen to help our students broaden their world view and to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Seeking out others with kindness allows for those conversations to happen in a safe, nurturing environment. 

As Viveck shares in his book, “this work isn’t always easy. It requires courage. The courage to be vulnerable, to take a chance on others, to believe in ourselves, but as we build connected lives, we make it possible to build a connected world.” 

Never has this need been so apparent, and so important. As a 141-year-old school community, nestled on an incredibly large waterfront campus (we have roughly one acre per student), we have been tapping into the power of nature and human connection in order to create safe learning environments for our students for a very long time.  It has prepared us well for this moment in history. 

Thank you for continuing to trust us with your support of your sons and daughters in their choice to participate as valued members of our connected school community. 


LCS House groups come together on a regular basis to connect and support each other.