Many schools talk about character. Willow practices it. 

Students don’t become kind, responsible, and courageous by merely talking about character. Integrity has to be modeled and practiced, which is why the Virtues Program is embedded into everything we do at Willow. Morning Gathering is the cornerstone. The entire Willow community gathers two times a week for fellowship, reflection, and student- and teacher-led presentations that explore the deeper meanings of Virtues and how to be mindful of them in our daily interactions. In the Lower School, Morning Gathering is held four times a week, while in Middle School, the Advisory Program continues to reinforce the Virtues on a daily basis.

Virtues are also integrated throughout the curriculum. For example, Grade 2 students interview and spend time with elders at a local retirement community during their in-depth study of the past. Grade 3 students weigh, monitor, and graph waste after every lunch, using their math skills to tackle real world issues of consumption and lead the school in reducing waste. School traditions like Harvest Soup, and extra-curricular activities like the Ethics Bowl, also grow from Willow’s integrated Virtues Program. The Virtues Program forms the foundation for students to act with confidence and compassion and learn to enact change at a very young age.

See our Virtues Program in action:

Compassion

YOU CAN'T LEARN compassion and empathy from a textbook. SECOND GRADERS interview and visit with elder friends from Fellowship Village Retirement Community for the service learning project, "Investigating History and Honoring Our Elders."

Responsibility
& Respect

AFTER WILLOW’S FAMILY-STYLE LUNCH, every student knows what to do — complete your assigned cleanup chore! This daily action is one of the many ways the Virtues Program fosters responsibility and respect for others.

Temperance

EVERY YEAR, Willow science teacher Miss M and third graders challenge the whole school to reduce waste. Third graders weigh and record compost and trash after lunch for seven days and then set goals to produce less. Third graders are elated by the results!

Gratitude

STUDENTS, FACULTY, STAFF, parents and friends participate in a Community Gratitude Project as part of our annual Harvest Soup tradition. Participants create a tile expressing gratitude that is then displayed as one beautiful mural.

Service

WILLOW’S FOURTH GRADERS studied food insecurity and initiated a food drive that involved the entire Willow community. Fourth graders collected over 1,200 donated food items, feeding 30 families for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Honesty

SECOND GRADERS PRACTICE a “compliment sandwich.” The exercise has students provide feedback on an assignment by giving a compliment, suggesting an improvement, and providing another compliment. This is one of the ways Willow students learn to provide honest feedback in a compassionate manner.

Courage

A FAMOUS NOVELIST said the bravest thing a writer can do is face a blank page. From day one, Willow students are encouraged to take risks in their learning. Perhaps that’s why two eighth graders had the courage to write, arrange music, direct and produce an original play involving lower school students.

Joy & Wonder

WHAT IS MORE joyful or wondrous than releasing a monarch butterfly? First graders adopt monarch caterpillars and closely track their evolution in science class before releasing them in a school-wide celebration..

Prudence

IN HANDCRAFTS, Willow students make prudent choices in selecting the right tool for the job. They learn to operate tools safely, and responsibly, which promotes their own wellbeing and that of the group.

Faithfulness

A STUDENT-LED civic engagement project with the Pingry School underscored Willow's faithfulness to sustainability. Pingry high schoolers worked with Willow faculty and students to remedy the impact of stormwater and foot traffic on our wooded campus.

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Compassion

YOU CAN’T LEARN compassion and empathy from a textbook.  SECOND GRADERS interview and visit with friends from the Fellowship Village Retirement Community for the service learning project, “Investigating the Past and Honoring Our Elders.” 

Responsibility & Respect

AFTER WILLOW’S FAMILY-STYLE LUNCH, every student knows what to do — complete your assigned cleanup chore! This daily action is one of the many ways the Virtues Program fosters responsibility and respect for others.

Temperance

EVERY YEAR, Willow science teacher Miss M and third graders challenge the whole school to reduce waste. Third graders weigh and record compost and trash after lunch for seven days and then set goals to produce less. Third graders are elated by the results!

Gratitude

STUDENTS, FACULTY, STAFF, parents and friends participate in a Community Gratitude Project as part of our annual Harvest Soup tradition. Participants create a tile expressing gratitude that is then displayed as one beautiful mural.

Service

WILLOW’S FOURTH GRADERS studied food insecurity and initiated a food drive that involved the entire Willow community. Fourth graders collected over 1,200 donated food items, feeding 30 families, for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

Honesty

SECOND GRADERS PRACTICE a “compliment sandwich.” The exercise has students provide feedback on an assignment by giving a compliment, suggesting an improvement, and providing another compliment. This is one of the ways Willow students learn to provide honest feedback in a compassionate manner.

Courage

A FAMOUS NOVELIST said the bravest thing a writer can do is face a blank page. From day one, Willow students are encouraged to take risks in their learning. Perhaps that’s why two eighth graders had the courage to write, arrange music, direct and produce an original play involving lower school students.

Joy & Wonder

WHAT IS MORE joyful or wondrous than releasing a monarch butterfly? First graders adopt monarch caterpillars and closely track their evolution in science class before releasing them in a school-wide celebration.

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Prudence

IN HANDCRAFTS, Willow students make prudent choices in selecting the right tool for the job. They learn to operate tools safely for personal and the group’s well being. 

Faithfulness

A STUDENT-LED civic engagement project with the Pingry School underscored Willow’s faithfulness to sustainability. Pingry high schoolers worked with Willow faculty and students to remedy the impact of stormwater and foot traffic on our wooded campus.

More to Explore on Virtues

Governor Murphy Responds to Grade 4’s Plastic Plea

Last year, fourth graders wrote letters to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy requesting that he ban plastic bags in the state. Grade 4 students also designed and sold reusable bags to raise money for 4Ocean, an organization dedicated to actively removing trash from the...

Willow Middle Schoolers Participate in First Ethics Bowl

Congratulations to Willow's Ethics Bowl Team! Last week, our team competed alongside seven other local schools in the first-ever New Jersey Middle School Ethics Bowl, modeled after the National High School Ethics Bowl. What is an Ethics Bowl? The goal of the NJ Middle...

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