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KidsPeace Offers Character Education

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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 was successful.


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 student feedback.


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.


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