According to our mission statement, The Browning School “fosters growth of courageous and compassionate men of intellect and integrity who aspire to contribute meaningfully to our world.” Our new character education program allows us to live this in an intentional way throughout the school’s curriculum and activities.
Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for building compassion and character in children. In our new fifth grade character education course “Radical Empathy,” boys exchange a personal story with a classmate, who is then tasked with relaying that experience to the whole class. That sharing allows a student to invest in another boy’s story and reflect on how that might influence the narrator’s own behavior and decisions.
Inspired by “Shark Tank,” the boys in the course are also developing ideas for not-for-profit organizations that can address issues that they see in the wider community. The boys explain their mission statement and logo, and present a business plan to “Panther Tank” judges. The top presenters will be given a prize to donate to a charity of their choice.
Expanding upon the fifth grade curriculum, “Panthers Connect,” which will be offered to the sixth grade beginning next year, will explore how valuing and supporting connections with others will create good men.
Strengthening Our Community
Taking the theme of connection further, Form VI student Justin J, created an interdivisonal “buddy program” as an independent study project. This program has brought boys of different grades together in a variety of activities, allowing the older boys to be nurturing and caring as well as acting as role models for our younger boys, while the young boys model that positive behavior.
Two rising juniors will continue the program next year.
Learning from Others
Community presentations supplement character education happening in classrooms and this year, several speakers have reinforced the importance of our school’s core values. New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award nominee Jarrett Krosoczka told students how hard work, persistence and the encouragement of some loving adults, made childhood passion for art his life's purpose, while Stanford professor and author of “The Path to Purpose,” William Damon, spoke to our community about how young people find their calling.
Our youngest students discuss the importance of values at their assemblies, and the Lower School Character Tree was introduced as a visual representation of those emphasized by the division this year: empathy, self-control, honesty and exploration. Each value is represented by a leaf and the boys earn a leaf when they demonstrate that value at school.
Speaking of the goals of the program, Character Education Coordinator Megan Ryan explained, “Our aim is to use every corner of our school to build community around the the values articulated in our mission statement as well as get the boys to ask themselves, "Who am I?" and "How can I flourish?" Such discussions offer the boys opportunities to consider the ways they can use their strengths, values and interests to meaningfully engage with and contribute to the broader community."