Using the lives and words of historical figures to inspire character building: The Wise Skills program

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The Wise Skills program is designed to develop character, resilience, and grit, and to strengthen social and emotional skills in students from K – 12. First developed in The Gateway School in New York City and currently owned by Twenty First Century Minds LLC, the program uses the words and lives of historical figures to teach students skills, mindsets and behavior associated with character building values, such as compassion, humility, perseverance, patience, respect, responsibility, honesty, courage, self-discipline, forgiveness and peaceful conflict resolution.

The program is comprised of four curricula: Wise Words for Grades K-2, Wise Quotes for Grades 3-5, Wise Lives for Grades 6-8 and Wisdom for Life for Grades 9-12.

There is a monthly character theme, featuring biographies and quotes of diverse historical figures with positive character qualities. These themes are further broken down into associated skills that students explore weekly. Teachers are provided with a wide array of activities (such as role plays, writing exercises, learning projects, interviewing activities and discussion) that they can choose from, and are encouraged to teach 3-4 activities per week across the school year.

An optional training workshop is offered, as well as “Character Across-the-Curriculum” Training for teachers to develop practical strategies to connect character issues with their subject area. A “Family Wisdom Implementation Kit” can also be purchased to engage families in activities for reinforcing concepts at home. Also available is a “Community Connections Kit”, which includes tools to help school personnel to coordinate community service projects and organizing a career speaker series with presentations from local community members.