Some boarding schools are becoming more deliberate in directing what students learn outside the classroom.
Boarding schools’ efforts to formalize what their students learn in residential life range from requiring students to participate in extracurricular activities such as community service, athletics, and clubs to mandating that teenagers carry out personal wellness plans.
George McDowell, the dean of faculty at St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock, Va., led boarding school administrators in a discussion about how to create an out-of-class curriculum at the most recent annual conference of The Association of Boarding Schools, or TABS, held Dec. 1-5 in Washington.
St. Margaret’s, a boarding school for girls in grades 8-12, has for two years implemented a curriculum that aims to build good character. In designing the curriculum, the school’s faculty and staff tried to answer the question: What do we want our students to be by the time they graduate?
They decided that St. Margaret’s graduates should be intellectually honest, respectful, responsible, engaged, self-motivated, flexible, and confident—and they came up with objectives and a plan to help students acquire those character traits.
Each trimester, everyone at the school focuses on a single theme, such as “healthy lifestyles” or “decisionmaking,” that is part of the out-of-class curriculum. Students discuss the theme in weekly dormitory meetings. For some themes, depending on the grade, students write personal histories. All students are required to practice personal-wellness plans that focus on behaviors such as eating healthy food and managing stress.
Rob Reinhardt is the dean of residential life/diversity for The Gunnery, a boarding school in Washington, Conn., for grades 9-12. While in a small group at the December session, he said his school wants to create an out-of-class curriculum for teaching citizenship. One aspect of citizenship would be getting students to work well with others, Mr. Reinhardt noted. The faculty and staff would also like to find a way to grade such skills in out-of-class activities, he added.
A version of this article appeared in the January 05, 2005 edition of Education Week