South Brunswick takes an “approach” to character education that fosters the social, emotional and academic growth of each child. The intent is to create a safe and caring community while building life skills based on the five core values (CARES):
Each grade level has its own version of this “approach,” but all levels are connected one to the other.
Over the past ten years, the K-5 teachers have been trained in and have followed the Responsive Classroom (RC) approach. Based on evidence and research by the Northeast Foundation for Children (NEFC), RC brings social and academic learning together throughout the school day. The premise is that children learn best when they have both the academic and social-emotional skills. The South Brunswick approach to RC includes the following components:
RC is deeply entrenched at the K-5 level. Each school has an RC Leadership Team comprised of a teacher trainer (RC expert), a counselor and an administrator. The team annually develops goals and action plans. The South Brunswick Parent Academy annually offers workshops to elementary parents on elements of RC.
For years the middle schools followed "Crossroads Cares about Character," a homegrown approach steeped in middle school philosophy. To better bridge to Responsive Classroom (RC) and to make character education more implicit (that is, a way of life), in 2009 Crossroads adopted Developmental Designs for Middle School (DDMS), an approach developed by Origins in conjunction with the RC parent organization, Northeast Foundation for Children or NEFC. This approach is grounded in research and is based on the belief that healthy, enjoyable relationships are the foundation for success in school. Teachers must know their students and students must come to know and appreciate one another. Components of the DDMS approach include the following:
- Morning Meeting
- Rule Creation
- Interactive Positive Modeling
- Positive Teacher Language
- Logical Consequences
- Guided Discovery
- Academic Choice
- Classroom Organization
- Working with Families
- Collaborative Problem Solving
A core team of teachers was deeply trained in DDMS and has since turnkey-trained other middle school staff members.
Similar to the middle school, for years the High School has followed a school-developed, explicit approach to character education. Annually the school decides upon a theme and then develops related activities to bring Character Education to the forefront. There is always a school-wide assembly/speaker and a service-learning project connected to the theme.
- Community building
- Modeling and practicing
- Goals setting
- Empowering teacher language
- Pathways to self-control
In its quest to find a more implicit approach, the High School Character Education Committee reviewed Community of Caring, Developmental Designs, and Smart and Good High Schools as model programs. The committee then met with the Institute for Excellence and Ethics (IEE) and based on this, undertook a study of the Smart and Good High School Report. The committee made the decision in Spring 2010 to adopt IEE and to embed character education lessons into all of its 21st Century courses (required coursework for all freshmen) and into the James Kimple Center Program on a daily basis. Addition lessons will be embedded into other areas of content (English, Math, etc) as curriculum is revised over the next two years.
The IEE approach allows for both explicit teaching of Character Education through a series of multimedia lessons that are embedded into the students’ schedules. It also builds teachers’ capacity in Character Education through staff meetings based around analysis of data.