Life Skills

Since 1958, Key School has focused on developing good citizens; students who internalize and uphold the values of respect, responsibility and honesty. This is realized through a developmentally-appropriate Life Skills Curriculum, integrated into academic classes and co-curricular activities (i.e., athletics, outdoor education, fine and performing arts) across all divisions of the school.

The Life Skills program supports and guides students in their unique, personal development and in their efforts to mature socially, emotionally and ethically.

2016 graduating senior class

The curriculum focuses on five distinct areas:

  • Citizenship and Leadership
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Human Development
  • Self-Awareness/Self-Regulation
  • Physical/Emotional Well-Being

Life Skills instruction begins on the very first day of school with First School students learning to work cooperatively, share and respect others. The focus for Lower and Middle School students is developing positive peer relations, effective executive function skills (i.e., planning, organization, self-motivation), and collaborative skills for group work. The program culminates in Upper School as students learn to self-regulate and assume greater roles as stewards of the community, designing service projects and other activities and events for students in all divisions.

More about Life Skills in...

First School

The instruction of life skills is at the heart of the First School curriculum. Taught implicitly and explicitly, the skills are integrated throughout individual units and academic disciplines. Teachers draw from a variety of resources to develop appropriate content and student skills and to look to the five curricular strands in the School’s life skills curriculum to guide the selection of content resources everyday.

The curriculum focuses on the development of skills for learning empathy, emotional management, and friendship/conflict management. Our teachers utilize research-based guidelines for a cohesive, sequential, and balanced approach to content, and the development of young children's self-awareness, self-regulation, and collaborative skills.

Topics may include:

  • Safe play
  • Hand-washing and germs
  • Nutrition
  • Disabilities
  • Life cycles
  • Families
  • Benefits of exercise
  • Development of class rules
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Community service projects
In the First School, lessons include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements. Picture books or large photographs accompanied by a story introduce and stimulate discussion. Lessons also typically include movement, role-playing, drawing, or music. Reinforcement of life skills lessons occurs throughout each day in diverse, real-life situations. Teachers provide differentiated support based on the needs of each student.

Lower School

Instruction permeates all aspects of a student’s day in the Lower School including: the care of personal belongings and personal responsibilities, problem-solving on the playground, listening carefully to each others' opinions during classroom discussions, working to protect school grounds, building reflective practices during mid-day quiet times and closing activities.

In addition to the life skills work that occurs everyday in homeroom and specials classes, the Lower School has designated life skills instructors to provide specific, explicit training in collaborative work, conflict resolution, and problem solving. Lessons focus on role-playing, case studies, and students' real recess experiences. Students in fourth grade also receive instruction on learning styles to gain an understanding of their personal learning profile. Students in second through fourth grade participate in “lunch bunch” sessions to work specifically in small groups on collaborative skills.

Several important goals of the Life Skills program in the Lower School are:

  • Helping children develop the productive work habits and self-regulatory skills needed for lifelong learning.
  • Building interpersonal skills enabling students to successfully navigate peer relationships in order to form lasting friendships.
  • Practicing collaborative work skills to help students fully benefit from the cooperative learning tasks encountered in Lower School academics.

Studies show that students sustain higher-order thinking longer and achieve deeper understanding of complex concepts through cooperative tasks than any other learning activity. Hence, we provide ample opportunities for Lower School students to practice and develop the skills they need to work collaboratively at school and, later, in the workplace.

In these safe learning environments, students discover their own personal leadership qualities and develop their natural talents. Quite often this leads to student-initiated, student-designed service projects. Lower School students have created community cleanups, lead efforts to prevent erosion on campus, and rallied the community to provide water for the homeless, books for sick children, and sneakers to the needy overseas. In becoming productive and positive stewards of the environment and the community, students are fully realizing the goals of the life skills program.

Middle School

The focus of the Life Skills Department in the Middle School is on the physical, social, and emotional development of students. With the five strands in mind, the Life Skills Department is committed to a select number of units in each grade. These units offer a cohesive, sequential, and balanced approach to the curriculum. Units of study take into account where students are developmentally. Life skills are taught explicitly, via these units of study, and implicitly, via the myriad of opportunities where students come together, to develop competency in learning these skills outside of the classroom.

  • The “Community unit in fifth grade addresses self-awareness, collaboration, and the responsibilities of citizenship, while the “Wellness” unit addresses human development and physical well-being.
  • The “Digital Citizenship” unit in sixth grade acknowledges that students at this age are often communicating online. This unit presents a platform to address issues such as respect, empathy, and an awareness of how individual daily choices online impact the larger school community.
  • The “Drug/Alcohol Education” unit in seventh grade teaches students the importance of self-regulation as they develop healthy decision-making skills. The unit is taught with an awareness that students learn by taking risks, and it helps students understand the importance of balancing their own personal needs and curiosities with the consequences of their decisions.
  • Students in eighth grade are involved in a service project, which introduces students to the responsibilities of "Citizenship". Students in eighth grade are also involved in planning and overseeing the annual Halloween fair, which is for students in Pre-Kindergarten through grade six. Planning for this project takes place over many weeks, requires extensive collaboration, and allows the students in eighth grade to be community stewards.

Upper School

The curriculum is presented explicitly in a required semester-long course for students in ninth grade and implicitly within the extensive activities program, the Outdoor Education Department, academic courses, athletics, and theatre.

Topics include:

  • Digital lives and real lives
  • Media literacy and citizenship
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Sexuality
  • Relationships

The five curricular strands are interwoven throughout the course. The teachers for each unit are committed to providing important facts while building upon students’ past knowledge and experience, provoking interest and questions, and providing tools useful for the important decisions that students must make.

While students may not recognize it at the time, these decisions are informed in large part by their values, and these values can and do vary from person to person. One important tool teachers hope to hone in this course is how to be intentional about remembering and applying values in important times of decision-making. Many unit activities are designed to allow the students to reflect on their values, as well as to offer a window through which they may see how acting on these values impacts themselves and others.

In Upper School, the course includes four units, in which students are taught and assessed in a wide variety of ways. For example, in the “Media Literacy” and “Citizenship” units, students learn about consumerism by watching The Story of Stuff and other short video clips highlighting consumer behavior. Students also learn about marketing by watching and analyzing a series of advertisements. As a final project, students are asked to create a public service announcement in either print, radio, or electronic format. In the “Sexuality and Relationships” unit, discussion always takes place in a large group setting, and students are asked to reflect individually via a short writing assignments.