Social Contract for Our School

6, 7, 8

A positive school climate is made up of people making choices about how to act and treat one another. It is everyone's responsibility to be a good school citizen. Students identify what traits they value most and survey the school population to identify what is going well and what students feel needs improvement.

PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Periods Plus time to collect survey results

The learner will:

  • give examples of how individual behaviors make up school culture.
  • describe the characteristics of someone who helps the community.
  • define the "social contract" and the roles of citizens and government (school administration) to enforce this "contract."
  • investigate issues in the school community related to the common good. Form an opinion about how to promote a positive school climate, and develop and present a persuasive argument in a formal group discussion.
  • student copies of Handout One: Skit
  • paper for pairs of students
  • butcher paper to display on classroom wall
  • access to Survey Monkey ( or other survey software or method
Teacher Preparation 

The handout includes three scenarios for students to interpret and act out. These explore the ideas of social contracts that when broken, hurt the integrity of a community.

Review information on "Social Contract." See Bibliogragphical References

  • citizenship: personal response to membership in a community
  • character traits: characteristics or qualities that describe behavior
  • community: a group of people living in the same area and under the same government
  • culture: the customary practices and beliefs of a social group
  • school climate: the values, culture, practices, and structures within a school that cause it to function in particular ways
  • social contract: an understanding among members of a group or community that defines rights and responsibilities and an expectation for how to treat one another
  • bias: personal judgement; a way we think about things that is formed by our experience
Home Connection 

Students interview an older relative or family friend about which character traits were valued most in middle school when he or she was your age. Students may provide a list of traits brainstormed in class and ask the older person to rate their importance in middle school of years ago. Discuss how rights and responsibilities might have changed or stayed the same. Students write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the expectations then and now.


Learning to Give Briefing Paper " Social Contract"


  1. Day One

    Anticipatory Set

    Write the words, "social contract" on the board. Tell the students that a social contract is an understanding (which may be unspoken) among members of a group or community that defines rights and responsibilities and an expectation for how to treat one another. Tell the students that they will be acting out skits that demonstrate what happens to a community when a social contract is broken. Encourage the groups to be creative in their acting and explore how the broken contract affects the whole community.

  2. After each skit, discuss the interaction, and identify the behaviors that were outside our social contract expectations. Ask the following discussion questions:

    • Do we have the same social contract in all the communities in which we are members? In all classrooms? At home? In the local community? In our faith-based communities?
    • Are there some behaviors that we accept as part of the social contract that really are not okay?
    • Do you think we can change an existing social contract to improve the community, or is it out of our control?
    • How do our biases make us blind to social contract?
  3. Students work in pairs to create a T-chart list of the positive and negative character traits/behaviors illustrated in the skits (negative:stealing, name calling, bullying, physical aggression, exclusion, rumor spreading, destruction of property; positive: complimenting, standing up for others, appropriate nonverbal behavior, including others, avoiding gossip, campus beautification, respect).

  4. Students may add other positive character traits/behaviors to the list that are important to them to see practiced at school.

  5. With the whole class, brainstorm a list of the most important positive behaviors to include in a social contract to help make a more positive school community. Ask each group to share what they think is the most important trait from their T-chart. Discuss and come to a consensus on five or six sentences using contract language. For example, "We agree to show respect for others through listening and avoiding name-calling." Write the sentences on the chart paper.

  6. Day Two

    Anticipatory Set

    Reread the written social contract on the chart paper from the previous day. Ask which of the positive traits is most important to practice in the whole school in order to have a positive school climate. Discuss what they think most kids in the school would choose.

  7. Put the vocabulary (above) on the board and discuss the meanings of the terms with the students.

  8. Tell the students that in the next lesson, they are going to design a character, like a mascot or superhero, who will lead the school in promoting a character trait that will improve school climate. Tell them that in order to choose the best five traits, they are going to survey the rest of the school to investigate what students feel are the greatest needs and most important traits.

  9. The class will use Survey Monkey or another survey tool to create a school survey. Discuss what they want to get out of the survey (investigate what students care about and feel is the greatest need). To develop survey questions, put the students into groups and have each group develop a couple questions in an assigned category (see below).

  10. Assign groups the following categories from which to develop a few specific questions: How are we doing already with our school climate? What are the most important traits? What needs improvement? What are you willing to do? Each group writes 1-3 survey questions in their category using the specific traits brainstormed in their T-charts and class discussions. [Sample questions: Put the following community values in order of importance: show kindness to others, respect shared property, have no tolerance for bullying, be on time, do your best work. On a scale from 1-5, how well is our school doing with its "no-bullying" policy?] Show them an example of the Likert Scale for having participants rate how strongly they feel about different traits.

  11. Allow 10-15 minutes for groups to form their questions. Have groups share their questions with the whole class. Work collaboratively to combine questions and finalize the survey questions.

  12. Students use or another survey tool to create a school wide survey that will assess which positive character traits the students feel that their school needs to improve.

  13. Discuss and make a plan for how to distribute the survey to all students. Empower the students to use creative problem solving and critical thinking to plan the survey administration. Set a deadline for collecting survey results and start Lesson Two when the results are in.

  14. Introduce the homework assignment to interview an older family member (parent, grandparent) about what positive character traits were valued in middle school when he or she was young.


Evaluate student identification of positive and negative behaviors on their T-charts. Assess their group participation in the brainstorming and survey question writing.

Cross Curriculum 

This lesson includes the investigation stage of the service-learning process. Students identify needs of the school community through a school-wide survey and group discussions.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the "social contract" and the changing roles of civil society and government in meeting this "contract."
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.