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November 1, 1993
Vol. 51
No. 3

The Child Development Project

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    Instructional Strategies
      The Child Development Project (CDP) is a comprehensive program aimed at fostering children's ethical, social, and intellectual development. At its philosophical core is the idea that values must be experienced as well as taught.
      Mobility and demographic changes have robbed many children of close, trusting relationships. Because these are critical to development, CDP schools seek to become “caring communities,” where children feel valued, connected, and responsible to others. Project teachers shape many facets of elementary school life:
      The curriculum gives children opportunities to work collaboratively and to explore—through literature, history, science—what it means to be a principled, caring human being.
      Discipline emphasizes problem solving, not punishment.
      Motivational practices focus children's attention on the joys inherent in ethical conduct and in learning—not on external rewards or punishments.
      Schoolwide culture enables all children—not just the best-behaved or highest-achieving—to be contributing members of the school community.
      Family activities make the school a welcoming place that helps children deepen their bonds with family members.
      In CDP schools, teachers spend up to 30 days over three years in staff development that explores how discipline practices, cooperative learning, literature-based reading, schoolwide events, and parent outreach can foster children's ethical and intellectual development. At weekly partner study meetings, teachers share successes and problems in their pursuit of these common goals.
      Ultimately, though, each CDP school finds its own way to make close, trusting relationships central to school life. Schools invent new traditions and reshape existing ones as they reweave the fabric of school life to emphasize values of kindness, fairness, and personal responsibility.
      Research on attachment and intrinsic motivation provides strong evidence that trusting, mutually satisfying relationships are critical to character development. Evidence links character development to the sense of community within a school.
      Originally developed in collaboration with the San Ramon and Hayward school districts in California, CDP has been the focus of an intensive longitudinal study over the past 12 years. Recently, the project has expanded to districts in Cupertino, San Francisco, and Salinas, Calif.; Dade County, Fla.; Jefferson County, Ky.; and White Plains, N.Y. In these districts, a group of 24 program and comparison schools will be studied extensively over four years.
      For more information, contact the Developmental Studies Center, 2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305, Oakland, CA 94606-5300.

      Eric Schaps has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

      Learn More


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