Human beings are social creatures. We need the company of others, and a school needs to provide both social and academic learning opportunities. At Durham Academy, social learning comes in the form of character education, in exploring multicultural perspectives and content, and in the formal and informal relationships children develop with adults and each other. At every level of the school, we talk openly and honestly about issues of social justice, compassion, friendship and integrity.
A school is a community unto itself, and at DA, we want students to know how to be citizens and leaders. The sense of self that comes from being a part of a community is something palpable at Preschool and Lower School assemblies. Each week, those students and teachers gather as groups to hear from a special presenter or performer, or to enjoy the work of fellow classmates. In these assemblies, young children stand up to share their work and ideas with their peers.
This work is built upon at the Middle School level. Through a program called Our Durham Academy, teachers laud students for performing good deeds at weekly assemblies. In addition to applauding positive behavior, faculty take a proactive approach to combating negative behavior; in 2011, the Middle School adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, regarded as the most researched and widely implemented bullying-prevention program in the world. Twice a week, students gather in advisory groups to discuss developmentally appropriate topics. These include healthy relationships, study and interpersonal skills, alcohol and other drugs, conflict resolution, ethics, and integrity among others.
Perhaps the most visible example of the Upper School's focus on character education is the annual Magnificent 7 assembly. At this event, students are celebrated for exemplifying morality in all its forms — with awards given for everything from "respecting the dignity of each individual" and "caring for the environment and property" to "having the courage to do the right thing."