Snowboarder wins gold in super-G ski competition

Ester Ledecka won gold in the Olympic women’s super-G, despite the fact that she primarily considers herself a snowboarder. The Olympics were abuzz as Ledecka demonstrated astonishing proficiency in two sports that can appear alike but in practice are dramatically different.

The Washington Post covered Ledecka’s win, ultimately declaring it, “one of the greatest upsets in the history of Olympic skiing.” Ledecka beat Austrian star Anna Veith by one one-hundredth of a second to snatch the gold. Upon completing her run, she was so shocked at her own victory that she could only stare at the score board.

The awe surrounding Ledecka’s victory shouldn’t belie her undeniable athletic talent and commitment to focused training. She works with two separate coaches—one for each sport—and splits her time between the two so as to immerse herself in each particular world. Lyndsey Vonn, the vaunted American skier, admitted “I wish I had as much athleticism as she does to be able to win at two sports in the same Olympics.”

Justin Reiter, Ledecka’s snowboarding coach, says of her earned prowess, “It takes a lot of effort to become a professional skier . . . It takes a lot of effort to become a professional snowboarder. And she does both with ease.”

Reiter credits her disciplined mastery as one of the keys to her success: “She can replicate moves over and over again far better than [anyone] I’ve ever seen.” In this sense, Ledecka provides an outstanding model of practices for mastery, where repeated actions become automated and one knows how to act well in any given situation.

He adds that Ledecka starts out by processing new skills slowly, but steadily and consistently moves herself to a point where any turn or jump is simply a reaction, as though it is second nature.

University of Lisbon professor and former Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture Fellow Bill Hasselberger suggests that skills like Ledeka’s can teach us how a person becomes virtuous. “‘Skill models of ethical virtues offer a promising way of explaining the distinctive kind of ethical knowledge or understanding had by a virtuous person: virtues are akin to practical skills (in carpentry, sailing, musicianship, [skiing and snowboarding,] etc.) in that both are experience-based capacities of agency that yield non-codifiable knowledge of how-to-act-well in particular circumstances.”

Ledecka has, by deliberate practice, mastered how-to-act-well while racing down a snow-covered hill. Despite their vast differences, she’s mastered doing it on skis and on a snowboard, and this could solidify her place in the Olympics’ history book.

For kids watching at home, the path to mastery—and virtue—is one of slow, deliberate practice that builds up to race speed.

In a fascinating Getting Smart podcast, Gene Kerns, author of Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise, discusses how deliberate practice is at the core of student formation.

Students take control of their curriculum

The Achievement First charter school network is modifying its approach at several schools to test a new Greenfield model that give students more autonomy over their education, an effort to promote responsible learning that will help students through college.

Achievement First reworked its educational approach several years ago after data showed less than a third of its high school graduates earned college degrees on time. Officials at the charter network conducted extensive research and worked with consultants to interview parents, staff, and alumni to find ways to better support students through college.

“One (alumni) said, ‘In college you have to teach yourself more than half the content on your own,’” Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s CEO, told The New York Times. The reoccurring theme “sort of led to the whole concept of self-directed learning.”

The Greenfield model—which blends the charter network’s high expectations and strict rules with new elements designed to develop independence, and a sense of identity and character—is now in a pilot phase in three of the network’s 34 schools: Achievement First Aspire Middle School in Brooklyn, New York; Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island; and Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School in New Haven, Connecticut.

According to the Times:

The model emphasizes what the network calls “student-directed,” or online, learning; three-times-a-year classes called expeditions, meant to allow students to explore their interests and discover possible careers; a social-emotional curriculum focused on developing students’ sense of identity and community; and a beefed-up role for parents and other caregivers and mentors. The aim is to cultivate students who are more self-directed and resilient, as well as to give parents confidence in their ability to support their children through the challenges of college.

Achievement First implemented an online learning platform and tasked students with completing units in humanities, math, science, vocabulary, and grammar by specific dates, with weekly progress reports sent to parents. Officials also added goal coaches to help students set goals for themselves.

Students participate in expeditions three times per year. These are two-week-long segments of three hours a day focused on their specific interests and potential careers. Students in 3rd grade and above select their own expeditions—which typically include full day field trips and hands-on action—from courses on things like debate, building and architecture, and the medical field.

Other changes include twice-weekly student “circles” borrowed from the social-emotional curriculum at Valor Collegiate Academies in Nashville. Achievement First students huddle in circles and use emojis to describe how they’re feeling, allowing teachers to follow up with struggling students. The circles also allow students to share ways to relate to each other, and build a sense of trust.

Aylon Samouha, a consultant who helped develop the Greenfield model, told the Times that helping students to feel they’re valuable and belong leads to improved focus in the classroom. “You can release some of that and free up your working memory to work on the tasks at hand,” he said.

While increased focus on autonomy and responsibility at Achievement First are ultimately aimed at improving academic success, they’re equally important for building character.

James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture write in The Content of Their Character:

In its formal sense, character is comprised of moral discipline, moral attachment, and moral autonomy: the capacities of an individual to inhibit his or her personal appetites or interests on behalf of a greater good, to affirm and live by the ideals of a greater good, and to freely make ethical decisions for or against those goods.

Hunter and Olson argue that “this doesn’t happen in isolation from the social world.” Rather, it is formed in a “conversation” between “individual subjectivity, moral ideas and ideals, and the structure of social institutions.”

Helping students to take responsibility for learning and virtue are as important as the moral ideals presented in history, literature, and art. Together these constitute what Hunter and Olson call the “moral ecology” of a school. That moral ecology can form students who understand learning as a worthy end in itself, and teach them that their actions influence their learning.

The Great Hearts charter school network provides a paradigm that promotes a similar path. According to the school’s mission,”Great Hearts is passionately committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.”

Creating global citizens through adventure

Students at Staten Island’s Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School learn citizenship by expeditions—to a mayor’s town hall meeting, Freshkills Park, or even abroad. Thirty-one students will travel with four teachers this month to London, Berlin, Paris, and Normandy as they learn about World War II.

Principal Tracey Frey says, “We’re creating global citizens” by leading students on expeditions where they learn by doing.

Expeditions develop life skills, Frey explains. In a foreign city, for example, students learn how to check into a hotel, navigate the public transportation system, and handle currency.

Frey herself learned by doing—working in the office of then-Mayor Ed Koch, then at the New York Public Library, the Staten Island Symphony, and the Staten Island Botanical Garden before joining the Department of Education as a teacher. She later became an assistant principal, and then principal of McCown in 2009.

“In Advanced Placement biology, students are studying the effects of opioids on cells, and will present their findings to the borough president and the district attorney on March 1,” according to Staten Island Real-Time News.

The experience of learning in the context of research, travel, and advocacy requires students to take responsibility for their learning. Responsibility is at the core of McCown’s focus on building character—specifically creativity, honesty, humor, respect, and responsibility.

“McCown graduates leave with a moral compass to make a mark and make a difference.”

As an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school, McCown is committed to a distinct pedagogy (a theory of teaching and learning) that guides its work, which in turn rests on a theory of persons. Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink studied schools like McCown for the School Cultures and Student Formation Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture to understand how these unique schools provide their students with a moral compass. He writes in The Content of Their Character, “These were not rudderless institutions. Each had a fairly explicit understanding of student formation goals, which to a large extent were an outgrowth of an alternative vision of the educational task.”

The practices of McCown—giving responsibility to students and immersing them in the learning experiences—do indeed leave their mark and prepare them as citizens.

Expeditionary Learning was born from a collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound USA. EL Education offers a variety of resources to teachers and administrators, from curriculum to a path to certification as an EL school.

Rocketship Academy will ‘touch your soul’ with gratitude

Teachers and administrators at Nashville’s Rocketship United Academy want students to understand that the school’s core values are more than slogans on a poster, so they’re bringing them to life through daily rituals that “create a consistent, predictable, and positive school experience.”

Across the public charter school network, Rocketship schools share four primary values—respect, persistence, empathy, and responsibility—and each school crafts a fifth, individualized value with the help of parents and staff.

“Our core values fit within our mission to prepare our students to thrive in school and beyond by equipping them with critical character skills. Many of our students come from high-poverty communities,” 3rd-grade STEM teacher Tatum Schultz wrote recently for Rocketship.

“Research shows that children living in these communities experience more ‘toxic stress’ than children living in middle or upper class neighborhoods. Toxic stress makes it difficult for children to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts, and respond to provocations,” Schultz wrote. “That is why we create a consistent, predictable, and positive school experience that helps our students develop the social-emotional skills they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

That development occurs in morning “community meetings” with students three times a week to focus on a character education curriculum tailored to upper- and lower-grade students. The program uses five characters with different temperaments and personalities to illustrate important concepts in ways young students can duly relate.

The approach is “designed to give students depersonalized opportunities to practice the skills to recognize their emotions, demonstrate care for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations,” Schultz wrote.

In upper grades, students learn to track their behaviors, feelings, and progress with a mood journal.

At Schultz’s school, parents, administrators, and others selected gratitude for the school’s fifth core value, and educators have incorporated exercises that transformed the concept from a word into “a feeling that will touch your soul when you walk through the front doors,” Schultz wrote.

One example, developed by Rocketship’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support team, is Gratitude Grams that allow students to express thanks and appreciation and show kindness to others in their own individual way.

“Every day, for seven days, students were given a half sheet of colored paper with a different student’s name on it,” Schultz explained. “Their responsibility was to watch gratitude spread. They had to write one sentence thanking that student for something they had done or they could capture appreciation for them as a peer.

“At the end of seven days, the students would receive their own name and could read what seven other students appreciated about them.”

Rocketship demonstrates what James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson call “intentional” schools in The Content of Their Character, a summary of field research in school culture and character formation from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

In “intentional” schools, according to editors Hunter and Olson:

The moral and missional ethos of a school was reinforced through a range of practices, or routinized actions—some formal, some informal—all oriented toward giving tangible expressions to the school’s values and beliefs. These included school mottoes, honor codes, school assemblies, mission statements, dress codes, statues, stories, student handbooks and contracts outlining behavioral expectations, and the like . . . All of it bears on the likelihood children will ‘catch’ character.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues offers a model of virtue formation that can help educators ensure that the tenets of strong character are not only taught, but caught by students, as well as have a positive impact on students’ home life.

Panel features students who evaded school-to-prison pipeline

Michigan students are speaking out about school discipline policies that tainted their view of education, and how adults in the system helped steer them away from the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

In February, Michigan State Rep. Adam Zemke, from Ann Arbor, hosted a town hall meeting at Forsythe Middle School that featured a “School To Prison Pipeline” student panel with several students who turned their lives around after disciplinary problems in middle school, MLive reports.

Jakobie Pillar, a 17-year-old junior at Ypsilanti’s alternative high school, discussed how regular suspensions for fighting in middle school convinced him school wasn’t his thing, and he resolved to follow after his older brothers who never finished high school—one of whom is now incarcerated.

Pioneer High School senior Marquaun Kane, also 17, shared a similar story, about moving to Ann Arbor from Ypsilanti after repeated suspensions for fighting. His brother, who also faced disciplinary issues, stayed behind in Ypsilanti schools and eventually dropped out after an expulsion in 7th grade to join a gang.

“For Kane and Pillar, the school-to-prison pipeline is more than an abstract concept about the link between getting suspended or expelled from school and the likelihood of engaging in criminal activity,” MLive reports. “It’s a reality their brothers faced, and a path they followed too until someone gave them the motivation and support to find a different way.”

The panel discussion also featured two other students—Pioneer senior Henry Taylor and Lincoln High School Senior Max McNally—as well as Anell Eccleston, an advocate with the Student Advocacy Center.

Pillar met Eccleston as an 8th-grader in Ypsilanti’s alternative middle school program, and she convinced him to join a social justice group she facilitates called Youth Action Michigan. The experience showed him how to share his experiences in a constructive way, and to take ownership over his own learning, he said.

Eccleston and the students on the panel also discussed the state’s new “rethink school discipline” laws, and how a shift away from “zero tolerance” toward “restorative practices” could keep more kids engaged in school.

The new laws encourage schools to focus on repairing harm caused by students through discussions and alternative methods like community service, and to take “circumstantial factors,” including age, discipline history, and disabilities, into account when determining punishments. The idea is to keep students at school, rather than resort to automatic suspensions or expulsions for certain offenses, though mandatory punishments for guns at school and other serious crimes remain in place.

Kane, who now works as a certified restorative justice practitioner at the Dispute Resolution Center, pointed to evidence that students who disengage from school after repeated suspensions or expulsion are far more likely to engage in criminal activity.

“If we’re suspending students and we’re sending them back home, which is likely the origin of their angst and where all this conflict happens, are they really doing better? Are they faring better at all?” he questioned. “You’re taking them from an area where you have all these individuals with all these degrees and all these resources —counseling, mentoringship, educational services—compared to what we have at home.”

Eccleston believes “the solution is simple but it’s very difficult.”

“It’s all about relationships,” she said. “If a teacher sees a student who is struggling and they’re able to build a relationship with that student, that can alleviate a lot of that stress.”

Eccleston’s insight into what’s working in Ypsilanti resonates with the research findings from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, which fielded the School Cultures and Student Formation Project.

According to the findings, published in The Content of Their Character:

What these case studies also consistently show is the importance of the informal articulation of a moral culture through the example of teachers and other adults in the school community. The moral example of teachers unquestionably complemented the formal instruction students received, but arguably, it was far more poignant to, and influential upon, the students themselves.

And while Eccleston points out that this work can be “very difficult,” particularly with students who have a history of bad behavior, the new restorative approach in Michigan and other states is likely a key to diverting youngsters from a path to prison.

Pillar, Kane, and their fellow panelists are now engaged in their communities, helping others to understand how exclusionary discipline can set young people—like their siblings—on the path to prison, and how learning to take responsibility for their choices and learning can benefit the whole community.

Duke Law is among a host of institutions that offer resources to educators looking for alternatives to suspension that can help students take responsibility for their actions.

We the People competition teaches history, government … and life

More than a dozen students at Carolina Forest High school recently received an in-depth, real-world education in history and the U.S. Constitution, an experience several said taught them a lot about themselves, as well.

In February, 14 students in JJ Iagulli’s advanced placement government class took second place in the statewide “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” competition—a mock congressional hearing in which students are expected to defend their answers with American history and constitutional law.

Ilagulli explained the process to My Horry News:

Students get questions and they write a prepared response of no more than four minutes to each of them. The panel of students is sitting before the judges, and after the four minutes, there is a six-minute follow-up segment where the students cannot use notes or prompts, and the judges ask any follow-up questions they want to.

Ilaguilli said that unlike a real congressional hearing, where one person is on the spot, the student competition encourages a full panel of students to chime in.

“There are points for participation, so even if the judge directs a question to a particular student, it is the responsibility of the group to add information or even disagree with the student that was called on,” he said.

Student Kareem Barbis told the news site that the dynamic of working on a team with students from different backgrounds was a new experience.

“Usually I get to choose my group and my partners, but the teacher assigned that, and it was interesting working with people different from me, people with different personalities,” she said.

Sandra Ataalla, Barbis’ classmate, contends the competition boosted her confidence.

“I had a better voice at the end of the competition,” she said. “I can take an opinion and back it up with evidence now. I used to be shy, but I’m more outspoken now.”

Cassidy Callaghan, another student, said the competition improved her research and communication skills.

“This is going to help me with job interviews, because now I can communicate with someone better and answer questions better,” she said. “We had no idea what they would ask, or what they would think about our speeches.”

Carolina Forest High School ultimately aced three out of six units at the competition, coming in second to Lexington’s River Bluff High School. River Bluff will now represent South Carolina in the national finals in Washington, D.C., in April.

“These kids can research, they understand the issue at hand, they can analyze it and synthesize and create a solution that often recognizes not just the complexity of the issue, but even the legal and constitutional requirements, even the founders’ intentions,” Iagulli said.

“They learn to create an argument they can back up with facts, and those things are beneficial no matter what field the students go into,” he said.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia recently examined the role schools play in forming character in students, and effective ways a wide variety of schools influence civic responsibility and other values.

The School Cultures and Student Formation Project, summarized in The Content of Their Character, centers on the question:

What is the path and process by which children are formed as well-integrated individuals who are caring, honest, and trustworthy—healthy human beings living virtuous and meaningful lives as civically minded and committed members of a just community?

“The moral and missional ethos of a school was reinforced through a range of practices or routinized actions—some formal, some informal—all oriented toward giving expression to the school’s beliefs and values,” editors James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson wrote.

The time, energy, and curricular alignment at Carolina Forest High School all communicate to students the importance of understanding the Constitution, being able to construct a valid argument, and working well with others. These all shape the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of good citizens.

The We the People competition is run by the Center for Civic Education, which offers lesson plans and other resources for educators.

The 31st Annual We the People National Finals—featuring more than 1,200 high school students from 56 classes across the nation—will take place at the National Conference Center over April 27-May 1, 2018.

‘Kind Cougars’ urge classmates to persevere

Irving Middle School’s “Kind Cougars” are highlighting important character virtues in a series of “virtue of the month” videos to encourage classmates to be kind and thoughtful toward one another.

Norman, Oklahoma, students Sutton Willis, Nora Morrow, Aliriah Barrett, and Eva Condon offered examples of perseverance in a January video, and discussed why it’s an important element of success.

“A great way to show perseverance is realizing you can push through the tough times and never give up,” Sutton said.

“ . . . If you have a divorce in your family, or you had a death, or you got a bad grade on a test, by pushing through it and never giving up, that’s showing perseverance,” Barrett added.

The virtue video project is an example of the kind of noncognitive learning that the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture’s James Davison Hunter and Ryan Olson deem “essential” in The Content of Their Character, a summary of research into character formation in a variety of schools.

To be sure, a considerable and consistent effort has been made to address the so-called “noncognitive” aspects of child development. By “noncognitive,” scholars and educators tend to mean the attitudes, behaviors, and strategies that are believed also to underpin success in school and at work—capacities such as self-motivation, perseverance, and self-control, but also empathy, honesty, truthfulness, and character more broadly. And surely the instinct is a good one: For children to flourish in schools and in their future lives, it is essential that these dimensions of their lives be developed too.

The Kind Cougars video is part of an initiative with the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma, which offers further reading on perseverance and why it’s especially important for students.

24-year-old Olympic skater inspires all

Mirai Nagasu landed a triple axel in the Olympic figure skating team event, helping the U.S. team to win bronze. To get to the Olympics again, and to land one of her sport’s most difficult jumps, took Olympic effort and persistence.

In advance of the singles events this week, The New York Times profiled Nagasu and her difficult journey back to the Olympic ice arena.

Nagasu was seriously questioning her future as a figure skater following a disappointing campaign to qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Skaters are chosen for the Olympic team based on their performance at the national event and over the course of the preceding season. Judges determined that Nagasu had not performed well enough throughout the season to qualify, though she placed 3rd at the nationals.

“Nagasu cried almost nonstop in the weeks and months after being passed over. . . At 14, she was the second-youngest skater ever to win a United States championship, and then things grew complicated when her body started changing,” said the Times.

Yet, Nagasu wasn’t done yet. She found the will to continue and displayed the persistence that has come to mark her career. She moved to Colorado, began working with a new coach, started tackling the challenges of early adult life, and soon found that the she was still drawn to ice work. She credits her new coach, Agnes Zakrajsek, with helping her to look forward, rather than backward.

One of the biggest challenges she continues to face is her age. At 24, she is older than almost all of her competitors at the Olympics. Figure skaters and their coaches have long assumed that older women are incapable of learning new jumps—the best they can do is build upon what they learned as teenagers.

“Figure skaters are usually young and then just fade away,” Nagasu explained to the Times. “But I’m not a fade-away kind of person.”

Nagasu didn’t let age play into her thinking about what was possible. She couldn’t be stopped, her teammates said of her. “She’s the hardest worker I know,” says Olympic skater Vincent Zhou. “She’ll do triple axels after triple axels until [her coach] has to drag her off the ice.”

Nagasu landed a spot back on the Olympic team through gritty determination, and she hasn’t disappointed. Her triple axel in the team event was one of only three to have ever been landed successfully at the Olympics.

The support that Nagasu had around her, from coaches to parents and teammates, is what James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson call a “moral ecology.” When social institutions “cluster together, they form a larger ecosystem of powerful cultural influences.” This happens in schools, among elite athletes, and in religious and social organizations. These moral ecologies encourage and sustain the kind of persistence required to overcome the adversity of being overlooked, of learning a new skill when others say you can’t, and of practicing until they have to drag you off the ice.

Coaches like Agnes Zakrajsek play a profound role in forming athletes. The Positive Coaching Alliance helps leaders to become dual-goal coaches, who make teaching life lessons just as important as winning.

Sophomores at Delaware school lead student walk-out

Students around the nation at public and non-public schools are taking action in the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida. In Delaware, students of Wilmington Friends Upper School stood for 17 minutes in silence in honor of the 17 killed and to protest gun violence.

Students Abby VandenBruhl and Casey Tyler told WDEL that they wanted to overcome a sense of powerlessness. VandenBruhl said, “I felt that we were far away,” but concluded, “I have to do this, I have to be part of this because I can’t sit around and watch this happen and know that it could be a school around here next . . .”

“This was a student-initiated statement, an act of civic engagement with a current issue,” said Rebecca Zug, Head of the Upper School. “We are proud that our students learn to let their lives speak on issues that matter to them, whether or not they chose to participate in this act of silent protest. There is no easy or single answer. We encourage engagement, discourse and empathy to solve societal challenges.”

Both Tyler and VandenBruhl hope the walkout will inspire change.

“I think we just need to do something. I feel like we haven’t done anything,” said VandenBruhl. “I think we just need to start trying things and I think we have to start debating and trying things before another tragedy happens.”

Friends schools like this one in Wilmington belong to a Quaker tradition that emphasizes peaceful conflict resolution. Anchored in that tradition, they take a unique approach to forming students for the kind of civic engagement that VandenBruhl and Tyler led.

As part of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture‘s School Cultures and Student Formation Project, Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink studied “alternative pedagogy” schools like Wilmington Friends in order to understand how these unique schools build character and citizenship in their students. Sikkink writes in The Content of Their Character, “These were not rudderless institutions; each had a fairly explicit understanding of student formation goals, which to a large extent were an outgrowth of an alternative vision of the educational task.”

It should not be surprising, then, that these students at a private school stand in solidarity with students at a public high school in Florida. The unique beliefs and practices of the Quaker school cultivates this sort of active citizenship and solidarity.

For teachers in any kind of school, the responsibility of forming responsible citizens is great. The Center for Civic Education offers this foundational lesson for middle school students on how citizens can participate in the United States.

Using literature to teach honesty, kindness

Students at Canandaigua Primary-Elementary School in upstate New York are learning about honesty from community leaders, with a little help from popular children’s books.

Board of education president Jeanie Grimm recently stopped by Cathy Payne’s 2nd-grade class to read Mr. Peabody’s Apples, a children’s novel by Madonna that focuses on the harm of spreading rumors.

“A lot of stuff in this book reminds me of Canandaigua,” Grimm told the Daily Messenger. “There’s a building with a clock on it, just like we have in Canandaigua. A lot of apple trees grow in Canandaigua.”

Deputy Patrick Fitzgerald also visited students in February to read a story and relate how honesty plays into his work as a police officer.

The focus on honesty is the school’s theme for February, and part of a broader character education initiative for local elementary students. The program is designed to highlight six important character traits—honesty, integrity, civility, responsibility, respect, and kindness—by establishing the basic concepts in lower grades and delving deeper into the topics as students mature.

The new approach stems from the district’s Character Education Committee, which suggested educators narrow character education to focus on specific traits and provided educators with a wealth of resources to draw from, according to the news site.

And Payne believes students are catching on as they relate the stories on character to their own lives.

“They’re using the words,” she said. “I’ll hear things like ‘Mrs. Payne, I did a random act of kindness for my mom or my sister.’”

Students’ positive response echoes findings from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s School Cultures and Student Formation Project, which examined character formation in a wide variety of American schools.

In a summary of the research, The Content of Their Character, editors James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson explain, “The presence of texts, traditions, and exemplars as sources for framing the moral culture of the school certainly create conditions conducive for explanation and illumination.”

At Canandaigua Primary-Elementary School, the pairing of literature and explicit instruction are helping students catch on to what is expected of them. School officials are also incorporating ways to honor students who demonstrate good character.

“Students across the building are being recognized for displaying good character with positive office referrals. We have posted several pictures to our Twitter account,” assistant principal Martha End told the Daily Messenger.

“When students receive a positive office referral, they come down to their grade level office and we celebrate them for a few minutes. Student pictures are then displayed on our Character Counts board.”

Administrators call parents to share the good news, as well. “They are so proud,” said another assistant principal, Emily Tatar. “We also celebrate our students with Braves of the Month. Each teacher selects two students to be celebrated, and we hang up their picture outside of the office to recognize them.”

Educators interested in forming strong character in students can find resources at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, including a school ethos self-evaluation framework to identify strengths and weaknesses in school culture.