Actively Caring in Schools: Developing Student Character and Leadership
In 2009, Dr. Shane McCarty expanded the AC4P concept as an intervention framework to enhance school climate with the vision of cultivating a more compassionate culture of non-violence, leading to improved school safety (McCarty, 2013). The AC4P approach complements the ubiquitous top-down administrative-led Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) initiatives by increasing peer-to-peer prosocial reinforcement to reduce bullying in elementary schools (McCarty, McCutchen, Teie & Geller, 2016; McCarty & Geller, 2013). Recent iterations of the approach are based on an integration of the evolutionary developmental model (e.g,. Ellis et al., 2012) and positive psychology in schools (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Furlong, Gilman, & Huebner, 2009).
Cultivating an AC4P School Culture
We are committed to addressing our nation’s education crisis, incivility, and declining rate of interconnectedness with research-based interventions. These issues can be addressed holistically by improving a school’s culture. An AC4P culture is made up of ongoing AC4P behaviors, interpersonal connections (e.g., meaningful relationships), and servant leadership (e.g., a shared commitment to empower others to shift their cultures towards AC4P). To cultivate a worldwide AC4P society, we must empower students to use AC4P interventions and develop their own strategies based in science to enrich their own culture in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges/ universities.
Elementary Schools: A Video-Based Curriculum Led By Teachers
Character education programs have been relatively ineffective at promoting desirable behaviors and reducing undesirable behaviors in the short and long term (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). This AC4P intervention uses weekly AC4P videos and activities to build character strengths and social-emotional competencies in an effort to reduce bullying behaviors in elementary classrooms.
Middle Schools: A Curriculum Led By High Schools Students
High School or University student leaders provide weekly lessons on AC4P character strengths to enhance character development and actively support the performing of prosocial behavior among middle-school students. Preliminary results suggest minor, but significant effects, for the AC4P approach in middle schools to reduce the frequency of victimization and the number of peer victims (McCarty, McCutchen, & Teie, 2015).
High Schools: A Motivational Assembly and Workshops Led By College/ University Students
AC4P-VT coaches deliver AC4P workshops to give student leaders the tools of AC4P’s psychological science to enhance resilience and compassion among their peers. Since the tragic shooting at Chardon High School on February 27, 2012, Chardon and VT student leaders have been working together to develop and improve workshops that inform an approach for HS’s nationwide to use (Teie, McCarty, & Cea, 2013). This HS approach involves an AC4P-kickoff assembly and follow-up workshops on positive-psychological states, effective teamwork and organizational design, servant leadership, and coaching strategies for their own local MS approach.
College/ Universities: Prosocial Interventions for Students Organizations
The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) lists civic learning as an essential learning outcome of a 21st century education in a democratic society (2011). For years, higher education administrators have purported that colleges and universities are the ideal environment for the exploration of personal values (Perry, 1999; Kegan, 1994), and the development of civic engagement.
The following are real testimonials from students after completing our programs. In order to respect parents' wishes to not show their child, the elementary and middle school student are not actual students. The high school video does include real footage of our focus group sessions with students (who had parental permission to be filmed).
Elementary School Student
Middle School Student
High School Students
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Colvin Run ES
Colvin Run ES piloted AC4P for the 2010-2011 school year. Inspired students of AC4P wanted a stained glass AC4P window in their cafeteria.
Chardon HS (OH)
Chardon High School students have been sustaining compassion in the aftermath of their February 27th, 2012 shooting. These students have held a faculty appreciation lunch, shown support for the communities of Aurora and Sandy Hook, and coached middle school students.
Orange HS (OH)
Orange High School students have been leading a culture shift within their school and throughout the entire community. A highlight of these student-led efforts are highlighted in this new video (Directed by Parker Maimbourg).
Auburn, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Shawsville Middle Schools of Montgomery County Public Schools piloted AC4P during the 2012-2013 school year. Their students wrote hundreds of AC4P story cards to recognize their peers.