Middle school student councils serve the same functions as high school student councils: they develop leadership skills, foster community awareness and participation and promote school spirit. The main difference between the two is the level of sophistication and experience of the student council members. Middle school students are just entering young adulthood, and student councils provide a safe venue for developing the responsibilities and skills needed in adulthood.
While some elementary schools have student councils, middle school is usually the first time that students gain a recognized voice in the school community. Learning about leadership is a key activity for many middle school student councils. Student council members learn how to research, plan, organize and execute programs and activities for a large number of students. The student council adviser leads student council members in developing their leadership skills, but there are other avenues for developing leadership skills such as through working with organizations such as the National Association of Student Councils. These organizations provide workshops and training sessions where students learn leadership skills.
Student councils devote a substantial portion of their time to fundraising activities. Student councils help finance a number of events each year for the student community such as movie nights, dances and spirit weeks. Some student councils raise funds to purchase items to beautify their school. Fundraisers also have the purpose of providing assistance to local, national and international charities. While fundraising may take the form of collecting money, other fundraising activities collect things such as canned goods or used clothing or toys. Student councils raise funds by having bake sales, charging admission for some events such as movie night or entry fees for some class competitions. Student councils may also manage the school snack bar as a fundraising activity.
Spirit weeks are popular with middle school students because it provides them with a diversion from the normal routine of school and offers a variety of activities that can appeal to the diverse interests of the student body. For instance, some students may not want to participate in a Come As You Are Day where they have to wear pajamas to school, but they may enjoy taking part in a Cowboy/Cowgirl Day. Spirit weeks also de-emphasize individual academic performance while building a sense of community.
While spirit weeks are fun, special events that last just one day or evening also offer students a way to break up the routine of school. These events may be held annually, like during Christmas season or on Valentine's Day. While other special events may occur on a more frequent basis, such as student-staff softball games, community clean-up days and student-of-the-month days.
Student Council Elections
Student council members take an active role in recruiting new membership. The requirements for student council varies from school to school. Some schools offer membership to all students so that everyone has an equal chance of developing leadership skills. Other schools have special academic and behavioral requirements in order for students to be accepted as members. Campaigns and democratic elections are the path to student council membership in most middle schools.
Bruce Pohlmann is an international educator, author and anthropologist. Pohlmann began writing about Southeast Asia and education in 1980. He has written many articles for both print and digital magazines, websites and blogs, including "Kabar Magazine," Escape Artist, and Offshore Wave. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.