The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Biological Sciences - Cell and Molecular: M.S.




College of Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Felicia Leammukda

Second Advisor

Matt Davis

Third Advisor

Ramya Sivaraj

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

belonging, community building, engagement, inclusion, individuality, ice breakers, science classroom, science education, science learning, social and emotional skills


Research prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily supported the importance of a classroom environment in which students feel as if they belong. A sense of belonging and inclusion from one’s peers is a basic human need and has been found to increase a student’s engagement in class and, in turn, their academic achievement. As students return to in-person learning, deficits in social and emotional skills of students have been the focus of many teachers in the field, stressing the need for strategies that foster relationships in the classroom. This study was conducted to test whether implementing different community building activities weekly, in addition to the traditional ice breakers used during the first week of school, provided increased benefits for student sense of belonging, sense of engagement, and achievement in the tenth grade life science classroom. The activities used in this study were developed to help students get to know one another and embrace their own individuality. The results of this study found that while student belonging and engagement survey scores did not significant increase from the community building activities conducted, student sense of belonging and engagement did seem to improve based on student interviews. Survey responses were subjective as opposed to concrete achievement scores. That being said, student achievement was found to increase significantly from the implemented community building activities throughout the course of the study.


I would like to thank my advisor and mentor, Dr. Felicia Leammukda, for her continued initiative to support and guide me through this process. She has presented me with countless opportunities to better my skills as an educator and has sought to find the answers to any curiosities I have had. I hope to do the same for my students. I would also like to thank Dr. Matt Davis and Dr. Ramya Sivaraj for serving on my thesis committee and offering to share their knowledge and mentorship.

I would like to express gratitude to my parents for always holding me to high standards and stressing to me the importance of momentum. A body in motion stays in motion. I would also like to thank my grandma for counsel when life was thrown off balance. She instilled in me a stubborn perseverance of my aspirations along with the wisdom of when I need to take a break—a very vital step to my success.



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