The Living in Community (LINC) program supports the School’s strategic objective “to educate toward a greater good” and builds on core values and expectations – as expressed in the school prayer and honor code – to be kind and live honorably. LINC’s curriculum is based on a well-established developmental framework that hones students’ competencies in five critical areas: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; relationship-building; and positive decision-making.
“LINC’s skills-based curriculum is about building social-emotional competencies and related skills so that students can learn to live in alignment with the School’s, and their own, values,” says LINC Director Theresa Ferns. “It’s a broad-based curriculum that we’re delivering in the classroom, on the fields, and in the dorms. We’re trying to infuse the program into our entire house experience.”
The LINC curriculum is adapted from a public health model created by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a non-profit organization that seeks to integrate evidence-based social and emotional learning in pre-K-12 schools. CASEL defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as the process by which students “acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” The model seeks to ensure that students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring, and contributing members of society.
Currently, six dedicated instructors teach the year-long LINC classes for Third- and Fourth-Formers that focus on students’ development of five core social-emotional competencies and related skills. In classes of 12 or fewer students, explore topics such as cultural competency, diversity and exclusivity, personal identity, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, gender, and wellness.
All SPS students receive ongoing LINC instruction through their heads of house and student prefects in the dorms, as well as during schoolwide LINC Days each term. Upper-classmen also attend small LINC classes focused on issues surrounding sexual intimacy and how to successfully prepare for college life.
The comprehensive nature of the LINC program necessitates ongoing training in its precepts for faculty, Student Life staff, heads of house, advisers, and coaches. Upper-class student leaders and prefects also receive LINC training, which prepares them to support and lead aspects of the LINC curriculum.
The LINC program also sponsors a series of events each year led by outside public health specialists who provide expertise and training for the SPS community in topics ranging from adolescent sexuality, anti-bullying, and bystander intervention, to cross-cultural understanding and the prevention of substance abuse and violence.
Still in early stages of development, the LINC program will evolve and grow over time. While the program has been built on many aspects of the School’s previous residential life programs, Director Ferns believes LINC’s framework and philosophy are more unified, and its curriculum lends itself more readily to tangible assessments and measurable outcomes.
Ferns has noticed some early signs that students are warming up to the LINC program and its “Be Kind, Live Honorably” motto. “At first, students referred to the motto somewhat ironically, but now they seem to be referencing and embracing it as values they should strive for,” she says. “That’s a positive sign. At the very least, it’s creating a common language and mission.”