Educational Programs

Life Skills

The origins of the Life Skills program date back to 1983, when a student exclaimed to then-headmaster Paul Cummins, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow—is that all you adults ever talk about?” With so much focus on preparing for the future, where could students address their daily experiences, the trials and tribulations of growing up? That fateful encounter inspired the program we now call Life Skills. Students gather in a circle for a weekly Council, passing a “talking stick” as they share their feelings on a variety of age-appropriate topics in a safe and nurturing space. Through this and other activities, students develop strong bonds with their instructors and with each other, building self-confidence, resilience and empathy.

Elementary School

Beginning in kindergarten, students learn to speak from the heart and listen attentively through Council, with a special Birthday Council held for each child. At each grade level, conflict resolution is taught and practiced. Children learn to understand and articulate the point of view of another, and to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict. Social awareness and respect require understanding one’s own identity as well as differences among people; specific lessons and curated literature selections focus on respecting differences.

Middle School

The Middle School Life Skills curriculum is designed to address the emotional needs of each grade level. Sixth grade places an emphasis on aiding students in their transition to a new campus and meeting new friends. Seventh grade centers on identity formation and positioning among peers, with themes of friendships, cliques and codes of behavior. Eighth grade focuses on value clarification, based on students’ cumulative reflections of personal, familial, social and global influences, and includes a single-gender unit for students to explore relational values. In addition to Council, students participate in storytelling, group-building games and activities, informal discussions and art projects.

Upper School

The Upper School Life Skills program is designed to build self-esteem, strengthen peer relationships, manage stress and encourage good decision-making. Methods include Council, written and experiential exercises, information workshops and relaxation sessions. Topics addressed include substance abuse, relationships, sexuality and sex education, with courses offered in peer mediation and service leadership. The 12th-grade Life Skills curriculum prepares students for their passage from adolescence to young adulthood, from living at home to leaving home, culminating in a transformational, five-day Rites of Passage retreat.