How do you best use the four years given to you to mold students to be both “smart and good”? This was precisely the task facing the staff of New Jersey’s Hanover Park Regional HS District, which consists of two high schools-Hanover Park and Whippany Park. The three towns that we service (East Hanover Township, Florham Park and Hanover Township) trace their roots to Revolutionary days and have strong traditions in civic engagement. In 2004, the district formally adopted the Six Pillars of Character because these core values clearly complemented our vision. Although we promoted the pillars, deep down we felt “something was lacking.” In 2009, we found that “something” with the arrival of a new superintendent, Mrs. Carol Grossi. Having served as the principal of Cranford HS (2004 NSOC), she knew first-hand the value of engaging young people and making service-learning a high school staple. Soon, character education became our district-wide focus: she energized the district staff, supported effective professional development, and involved the parents and community. Within a year, the Character Counts values became our living qualities. A Learn and Serve grant enabled us to build an outdoor classroom. Students began taking the lead in initiating service projects, academics improved, and discipline problems decreased. A miracle? Hardly. However, we learned that a district vision, buttressed with hard work and collective zeal, could bring about amazing results!
Promising Practice: Outdoor Classroom
Students from all facets of the high school campus became involved in designing and building an outdoor classroom.