Prep4ward Toward Healthy Lives of Consequence
I’m starting my seventeenth year at Avon, so I’ve been around long enough to hear my share of students reflect on their experiences. Tuesday morning chapel talks by seniors and Head of School’s Dinner talking points are just a couple of the opportunities that students here have to address the community, and they often use these opportunities to sum up what they’ve gained from a particular part of their experience. “I learned a lot about pre-calculus, but I learned more about perseverance in that class.” Or, “Living in Eagle dormitory taught me what it meant to be a good listener.” Or, “I loved playing on thirds football as a freshman. By the end of the season, I felt like a real leader on the team.”
Our boys are learning all over campus in all areas of school life, and the lasting lessons for them have to do with character, not necessarily content.
With the idea of character-education in mind, a team of academic and residential life administrators along with our student health council team met weekly to develop the Prep4ward (P4W) program’s content during the 2018-2019 school year. The objective was to create a curriculum to fit into an already-established time period during the academic week. The curriculum would have scope and sequence by grade level and could work strategically to inform our residential life curriculum and weekend speaker series. To determine the content, we asked ourselves, What do we want our boys to learn about in order to prepare them for success both in the short-term and long-term? We came up with four foundational pillars:
- We want them to know what it means to be a good leader.
- We want them to understand personal growth.
- We want them to have practical life skills to use to pursue their goals and manage their lives.
- We want them to be healthy and well, both physically and mentally.
We want our boys to be leaders. They need to know that the world needs good men who have the confidence and strength both to lead and problem-solve. They need to know the importance of understanding group dynamics and to develop the confidence and courage to step in and stand up.
Our boys should recognize that there are many different models of masculinity. They should know the joy and perspective that comes with contributing to something larger than themselves. They need to care about their various communities and appreciate the variety of people that live in them. They should value service and inclusivity.
Our boys need to know how to stay organized and this might look different depending on the kind of tasks and information that need to be organized. Organizing personal space is not the same as organizing personal finances or organizing one’s time or the process necessary to achieve a particular goal.
Health and Wellness
Perhaps nothing is more important than the all-around health and wellness of our students, and the secondary school environment gives us a great chance to educate the whole student as we were all reminded of by the Summer 2019 edition of NAIS magazine. Topics in emotional wellness, nutrition, and healthy relationships in the real world and online world, as well as comprehensive and grade-level appropriate sex education, are part of our P4W program.
We are proud of this program. It is designed first and foremost “for the boys” since it speaks directly to what they value most about their experience and what they need the most in terms of navigating the difficult realities and certain pressures of adolescence. Although experts in specific fields have been consulted, the faculty who teach, coach, and advise the boys are primarily the ones who are leading the sessions in P4W and developing the content. For example, the director of communications will consult on the content of the Online U session about maintaining healthy relationships with social media, but faculty members will lead break-out groups to consider the topic in greater depth.
Prep4ward is an ambitious program, but it is based on the proven model that boys want to learn what they consider is relevant to them, and they want to learn from people who they know care about and understand them. In year one, we are confident that P4W will serve our boys well, and, of course, we will listen to their feedback as we consider how to move the program into the future.
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