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Building Character

The EL model is built upon two traditions: Outward Bound’s focus on challenge, teamwork, service, and compassion, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s focus on active inquiry-based learning. Since our inception at the Harvard Outward Bound Center twenty years ago, we have placed student character at the center of our work in schools. The high achievement of our students is the result of an unusual degree of engagement and work ethic engendered by our approach to academics coupled with relentless, purposeful instruction in Habits of Scholarship (i.e., academic mindsets and learning strategies). These factors combine to support the success of students from all backgrounds in college, career and life.

Student achievement in EL schools is fostered in three dimensions: traditional measures of achievement (e.g., state tests, college acceptance); the creation of high-quality work that aspires to professional standards; and the cultivation of character strengths to achieve a successful, fulfilling and virtuous life. The mountain our students climb is a metaphoric mountain that leads to academic success—rather than the mountain of rock and ice faced by students on Outward Bound wilderness courses—but the same ethic prevails: all students must support and compel each other to reach the summit and to achieve more than they thought possible.

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