Doane’s Rocks, Roots, and Wings trips are a particular important aspect of its character and leadership development program. In the fall, the school schedules 2–4 day trips that take students in grades 6–12 beyond the boundaries of campus to places of historical, natural, and cultural significance. Several trips involve learning how to navigate the major cities of Philadelphia and New York, and many have a focus on outdoor education. For most students the activities, environment, expectations, and rewards are very different from those they experience in their daily lives. Supporting and being supported by their classmates makes this a powerful bonding experience and essential part of helping students understand what it means to contribute to a greater community. Pushed out of their comfort zones by design, students are individually encouraged to test their limits and discover their second wind, and at the end of these trips, they often find that their self-confidence, willingness to take initiative, team work, and maturity are significantly and often permanently enhanced. The accommodations are basic (youth hostels, camping grounds, cabins). For some grades, meals, including all the preparation and clean up, are handled by the students. Activities include whitewater rafting, canoeing or kayaking, environmental education, hiking, ropes courses, and team building exercises. Most often, there is a major service component, and through these trips, students develop a hands-on appreciation for the geological, cultural, and historical importance of their home region. By starting each school year with these experiences, faculty and students remind themselves of the importance of character, leadership, and relationships in the context of their overall growth.
Doane Academy views the development of character and leadership qualities in our students as a priority equal in importance to academic achievement. This belief has made “Strong Ethical Leadership” a cornerstone of our educational program, permeating everything that we do in classrooms, on athletic fields, and beyond. Our Upper School curriculum reinforces this commitment through a series of required grade-level cycle courses in grades 7-12.
In grades 7-9, students work to develop “personal character” skills. They learn to express themselves creatively and in written form. They build the organization, inquiry, and design skills needed to becoming reliable, trustworthy, and productive individuals. And, they develop an understanding of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle and begin to explore the complexity of trying to live ethically as digital citizens in an ever-changing world.
Starting in their 10th grade year, students explore who they are as individuals, including what they value and how they view the world around them, and learn to exhibit empathy by exploring different social, religious, and ethical philosophies. Discussions are designed to encourage students to expand the scope of their understanding of different viewpoints as a primary goal. Students also explore the qualities of effective leaders in preparation for assuming leadership roles both in the Doane community and their own communities.
In 11th and 12th grades, students are challenged to share what they have learned about themselves, others, and leadership by taking the initiative to improve their world through projects related to their passions. Through research and reflection, they identify causes in which they believe, and they finish their time at Doane by selecting one of these causes and presenting to their peers a plan for important, meaningful change.
Character, leadership, and personal growth best occur in environments where such growth is the expectation. Through our curriculum, Doane Academy provides such an environment.