KidsPeace Schools in
Orefield, PA, are offering a new weekly class to students in residential
treatment – Character Education. Teacher Michael Brady has been passionate
about introducing this concept for six years and wrote his Master’s Thesis on
the subject. “It is experiential education that focuses on building positive
relationships and setting the students up to be successful,” Michael explains.
Having been a teacher for 12 years, Michael realized that students needed more
than content that is assessed at the end of the year to determine if the class
The students begin by
sharing information about themselves with the class and developing a values
agreement that they all sign to indicate their acceptance. The kids then use
their own words to describe the elements of their learning environment
including cooperation, trust, problem-solving, working together in safety,
positive communications, discussing emotions and reacting to and accepting
Michael has the students
suggest projects that they could work on together such as student newsletters,
after school programs, incentives similar to those offered in the residential
houses, on-campus jobs, creating a music studio, working in a garden or working
with animals. He visits each class only once a week, but his goal is to empower
the students to feel comfortable with trying new things as a group.
Naming the idea after the
program outlined in his thesis, Michael is hoping that the Epiphany Project
will become a marketable product that can be introduced in schools and agencies
around the Lehigh Valley and the nation. Michael envisions marketing the
program to local schools and agencies as workshops for kids or a series of
programs throughout the year, but that will be in the future.
Right now, Michael spends
an hour a week in each classroom, but that time will increase as the students
become more involved in the program. It is very rewarding to Michael that the
students are actively participating in the classes, especially when considering
that these kids are all in residential treatment at KidsPeace because of
emotional, behavioral or mental health issues. Furthermore, the composition of
the classes changes as children move through their treatment steps and change
levels of care as they progress. Students who come from the Diagnostic Program
are only at KidsPeace short term, so class members turnover often.
Michael uses a number of
resources in the classes including books full of activities and quote books. He
often starts class with a fun activity and then introduces a quote or writing
prompt to get students thinking and talking. They are all journaling as well,
learning to put their feelings on paper. The students have all created cover pages
that contain their hopes, dreams, fears, self-portraits and things that are
important to them.
“All in all, the kids are
doing real well with this project, and I believe that character education will
benefit them all while here at KidsPeace and later in life.” This program is
another example of how the KidsPeace Transformation is leading to innovation
and interesting programs to help our kids learn and grow and heal.