• At DDES, character development is the backbone of our work.

    In fact, we consider character development to be equal in importance to the development of academic knowledge and skills.  Our character code defines the performance and relational skills we believe all students need to be successful when they leave elementary school.  In 2013, at a staff retreat, the founding DDES staff worked together to determine the types of traits that they believed would support students to grow academically and interact positively.  They started with a huge list of character traits that they whittled down to five after much deliberation and debate.  Next, they went through a similar process of defining the words to determine just how they would be taught each year.  During an inspired walk, the founding staff named this list of traits, “The Way of the Blue Bear.”  



    While most schools define character traits, our goal is to bring them to life for students by explicitly teaching them, giving students an opportunity to practice and reflect on them, and consistently connecting them to the work we do all day, everyday.  We expect that DDES students not only know the traits and what they mean, but also know their own relative areas of strength and need for character growth.  We – students and staff members – champion a growth mindset, which means that we know character can grow through effort.  In the words of one of our students, growth mindset can be thought of simply as adding “yet” to the end of a sentence – such as “I can’t do that, yet.”  

    School structures and traditions such as crew (daily advisory for students), community meetings, exhibitions of student work, and service learning ensure that every student is known and cared for, that student leadership is nurtured, and that contributions to the school and world are celebrated.  Our school culture acknowledges the strengths and challenges that each student brings to the classroom, meets them where they are, and provides structures and supports necessary to help them grow.  

  • Claim 1: DDES students are becoming effective learners because they regularly practice and apply skills of courage, compassion, and craftsmanship while giving and receiving feedback and revising their work.

    See The Evidence for Claim 1

    Claim 2: DDES students are becoming ethical people because they foster a culture of compassion.

    See the Evidence for Claim 2

    Claim 3: Students at DDES leverage their own learning to improve the world around them

    See the Evidence for Claim 3