Students add character to their learning

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The Character Lab program at Cooper’s Crossing School provides students with extra skills to help them as they go through life, according to the school’s principal, Todd Hennig.

“Character Lab identified nine research-based attributes that give the greatest likelihood for success and thriving in life,” Hennig told the Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools (RVS) at its March 1 regular meeting.

“They’re attributes of curiosity, of gratitude, of purpose, of zest, of grit, of social emotional intelligence…self-control, growth mindset and optimism.”

According to characterlab.org, curiosity refers to a desire to learn more, showing an interest, seeking novelty and being open to new experiences. Gratitude is about appreciating what others have done for us and feeling moved to reciprocate.

Purpose refers to contributing to the well-being of others. Zest is about finding joy in what you do. Grit focuses on passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Self-control refers to controlling your actions, thoughts and feelings so they align with your goals. Growth mindset is about believing we can get smarter through hard work and good strategies.

“We care not only for (students) as learners, but as people of character and, for that reason, we are intentionally focusing on character development and helping them build those attributes and skills that will enable them to find success as they grow into adulthood,” Hennig writes of Character Lab in the school’s 2015-19 School Education Plan.

Students at Cooper’s Crossing are encouraged to embrace these character traits, which are taught as part of the regular instructional program. According to Hennig, because the Character Lab program is taught throughout the school in classrooms and in school assemblies, the school culture has been enhanced.

“The first step is really believing it and modeling it,” he said. “The feedback we get from our parents and teachers all the time is that simply having a common language gives power to the program. We have something to talk about.

“Character traits are very intangible. You give them tangible names to hang the concepts on and to celebrate and learn.”

Hennig said opportunities to teach the character traits arise each day at the school. For instance, a kindergarten teacher reading The Little Engine that Could to a class can introduce the concept of grit.

“Looking for curiosity, looking for zest for life. Feeling it. Helping kids recognize the value and good self-concept that comes when we become people of strong character,” he said.

“Integrating it and looking at how we can teach these by looking at what’s already overlapping in the school so it’s not an add-on.”

Hennig said the school is still working on fully integrating the concepts of the Character Lab into its daily life, including working out a mechanism for tracking success.

For more information, visit characterlab.org

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