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Paddling across the Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes, portaging overland , and passing through hand-operated locks were invaluable experiences in understanding their collective strengths, capitalizing on teamwork and support, and overcoming discomfort to better understand the boundaries of what each student thought was possible.


There has been considerable discussion in education since the turn of the century regarding how we prepare our children and students for the future, specifically, arming them with “21st-century skills.”  The difficulty, however, has been how to clearly delineate what those skills are.  All too often schools translate 21st-century skills into technological skills, convinced students’ future success is dependent upon honing their facility with computers, 3-D printing, coding, and app development.  While these skills are likely to be valuable for future employment, the rapidity of change in technology means that our students’ skill sets will likely be obsolescent in short order.  In fact, we may be preparing our students for professions that may not yet exist.  What then are the sets of skills that will allow our students to succeed in an unknown future?


Competitive sports offer the chance for children to work together outside of the classroom building character and teamwork skills.


Supportive teachers and active learning are a daily occurrence even for our smallest students.


They are the enduring skills that have always separated success from failure.  The qualities of character that include critical-thinking – the ability to maintain a growth mindset, listen carefully, and glean the most salient data points from differing perspectives, collaboration – the ability to engage with others possessing differing skill sets, talents, and perspectives and producing outcomes that are greater than the sum of each individual’s input, and leadership, the ability to act responsibly, decisively, and ethically in response to an understood need.


Upper School students teach younger students about the instruments available for ensembles and bands. 

Leading by example, 8th grade ambassadors support students throughout the school in a myriad of ways, including greeting them in the morning. 


In order to foster these enduring skills schools must provide educational opportunities for students to grow in areas that reveal and strengthen these vital traits.  The hallmarks of a quality educational program include a balance between necessary curricular content exposure, and meaningful experiences to enhance enduring skills.  These opportunities may include a leadership retreat that cultivate resilience, collaboration, and interdependence, such as a wilderness adventure.  It may be an in-school  ambassador program that allow for older students to lead, support, and model for their younger peers such as opening car doors each morning at arrival.  It may be serving on a Student Leadership Committee, working collaboratively with school administrators to create unique opportunities for the student body.  There are myriad ways that schools can enrich and prepare students for an exciting, yet unknown future.  The key is the development and commitment to fostering the qualities of character that have always endured.


Dutchess Day School
415 Rt NY-343

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Hudson Valley Magazine editorial staff.