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Our School's Identity

What are the top three features of our school's identity?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students examine the concept of group identity by selecting the three defining features of their school identity.

Activity 1
Ask students to work with a partner to list five words that describe themselves and five words that describe their partner; e.g., ambitious, athletic, Francophone. Arrange for students to share and compare their lists with their partner, noting the following:

  • What features are similar?
  • What features are different?
  • How do these features reflect our identity, in terms of how we perceive ourselves and how others view us?

From the discussion, elicit the notion that we share similarities but also have differences. Suggest that these similarities and differences give the class and, ultimately, the school, a unique identity. It also presents opportunities and challenges in working together and learning from one another.

Activity 2
Introduce the terms political, economic, demographic and social. Indicate that these factors influence the identity of the school–how people in the school and outside of the school perceive it. You may create a comparison chart, as illustrated below, to help clarify these key concepts.






  • the school's organizational structure and means of control

  • the ways in which school's material wealth is developed and managed

  • the groupings, size and composition of the school population

  • the ways in which students and staff interact and treat each other


  • time table, daily schedule, grade allocation, school rules

  • student fees, fundraising, budgeting, general spending

  • number of students, ethnic and/or linguistic background, ages, number of males and females, grade levels, languages spoken

  • the climate in the school, student activities, extracurricular opportunities


  • enhances or discourages student voice
  • provides opportunity for many to participate or provides opportunity for an elite few
  • protects or violates the interests and rights of students and staff

  • entails cost or generates revenue
  • results in equitable or inequitable distribution of funds
  • well-funded or under-funded school

  • influences the collective strengths and weaknesses of the student body
  • shapes the curricular and extra-curricular offerings
  • affects the social dynamics

  • increases or hampers cooperation
  • creates or restricts opportunities for interacting
  • promotes or impedes skill development
  • fosters or discourages connection between students

Inform students that they are to explore the school's identity through these four lenses. Invite students to work in pairs to identify unique features of their school, such as fine arts focus, strong sports program or active student leadership. Next, they are to determine the implication for identity of each feature and label these implications in terms of their political, economic, demographic or social impact.

It might be helpful to create a chart, as illustrated below, and work through several examples with the class.  

Features That Contribute to School Identity


Implications for Identity

A band program

  • Helps some students feel like they belong to a group (Social)
  • Provides an nonacademic feature to the school (Social)
  • May create an elitist perception because of the expense of the program and of the travel (Political, Economic)
  • Might draw more students to the school (Demographic)

Competitive volleyball team

  • Helps some students feel like they belong to a team (Social)
  • May create tensions with students who are not on the team or who do not support athletics (Political)
  • Contributes to pride in school (Social)

Invite students to compare their completed charts with another pairing.

Activity 3
As a class, develop criteria for most important features of a school's identity; e.g., easily identifiable by people inside/outside of the school, highlights strengths and achievements of the school population, unique to the school. Then, ask students to individually determine the three most important features from the collective list and describe the impact of these features in determining their school's identity. Consider adapting one of the charts and strategies in Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Invite students to visually represent the key features of the school's identity by creating a computer-based presentation for a school assembly, the parent school council, another class, a parent-teacher night or the school board office. Additionally, the class could read about and compare the identities of top Canadian universities in Maclean's annual ranking.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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