Challenge Success: The Benefits of Developing the Whole Child 

In alignment with the Challenge Success philosophy, Dawson provides students and families with information and strategies to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for kids. We partner with families to help children strengthen their sense of self, increase their motivation and critical-thinking skills, and learn how to effectively deal with life’s inevitable challenges. 
This fall, we had the distinct privilege of welcoming Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success and senior lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, to campus to meet with families, faculty, and students. During the Parent University presentation, Dr. Pope explained the guiding principles of the “developing the whole child” approach and how Dawson applies the Challenge Success SPACE Framework to create a student-centered learning environment. She also shared the results of a recent Dawson student data collection and how parents can partner with the school community in support of creating the foundation that is necessary for children to grow into well-rounded, healthy individuals.
Denise Pope Challenge Success at Dawson Parent University presentation

As a parent or caregiver, how do you define success? What are the life outcomes you most value for your children? According to Challenge Success, students today are under more pressure than ever to be successful. The immense stress of that expectation can cause sleep deprivation, a feeling overloaded by homework and extracurricular activities, mental health issues, a lack of a sense of belonging and authentic social connections, and a feeling of the need to cheat to keep up academically.
Dr. Pope said that for children from preschool through high school, this all leads to widespread disengagement, decreased resilience, and students not being prepared with the 21st-century skills - critical thinking, communication, creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, collaboration, and information, technology, and digital literacy - necessary to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. Instead, we find ourselves surrounded by robo-students or kids who spend the day merely going through the motions, devoid of any real sense of engagement, well-being, or belonging.
SPACE Framework
Dr. Pope explained that one way Dawson commits to developing the whole child is by applying the Challenge Success SPACE Framework. It is a blueprint for creating an equitable learning environment in which all students are given the support they need to be happy, healthy, safe, supported, and challenged affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively. Here’s a snapshot:
S - Students’ schedule and use of time
Dawson’s daily schedule allows for creativity and collaboration, and a homework load that supports a healthy school-life balance.
P - Project and Problem-Based Learning
It is more purposeful and engaging for students to learn the mastery of skills through profound reflection, feedback, and revisions rather than hours and hours of homework. 
A - Authentic and Alternative Assessments
Dawson has created rubrics that show it is okay to make mistakes and to use these learning experiences to gain feedback and develop a level-up mindset to grow versus solely focusing on letter grades.
C - Climate of Care
Our social-emotional learning foundation is built into students’ daily schedule and supplies them with connections with trusted adults and the positive coping strategies necessary to deal with stress and challenging situations. This includes Dawson’s relational discipline policy and our Middle School advisory program, which supports students’ resilience, critical-thinking skills, and global awareness. 
E - Education for the Whole Community
The School offers learning opportunities for faculty and families to attend workshops and provides resources through blogs, podcasts, parenting sessions, and more that deliver motivational and encouraging ideas to help our community best support the individual needs of children.

Evaluating Your Time
During her presentation, Dr. Pope guided families through a Time Wheel Activity. In this moment of self-reflection, adults considered how many hours their child is in school, and how much time is spent on homework, extracurricular activities, chores, using media, and so on. After reviewing their time wheel, families can decide where they can make adjustments to allow for the Challenge Success PDF model: playtime, downtime, and family time. Additional tips for at-home support are available in this article.

Challenge Success-Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences
Dawson continues to look for ways to respond to the unprecedented health and emotional wellness issues students are facing, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and cultural stressors. Our goal continues to be educating our community about mental and physical health and wellness to help keep our students safe. The best way to keep our pulse on student health and well-being is through data collection. 

In November, Dawson partnered with Challenge Success to conduct the Challenge Success-Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences. During their morning advisory period, students in grades 5-8 participated in this research study on the following areas:
  • social, emotional, and physical well-being
  • their educational goals
  • beliefs about teacher care
  • their views on the academic climate and expectations at Dawson and at home
The survey delivered important insight into how Dawson can decrease academic stress, increase student engagement, and foster greater student voice and belonging in school.
During her campus visit, Dr. Pope met with all faculty to review the findings of the survey, which the School will use to improve our programs to meet the needs of our community. Dawson’s Challenge Success Team will also use the results to guide their planning for our annual Challenge Success Week during the second semester.
Dawson's Challenge Success Student Team with Denise Pope

Curious about that data? Dawson’s Chief Academic Officer Dr. Brandon Wiley will break down the survey results in an upcoming blog series.
For more information on the Challenge Success program and additional resources please visit our Challenge Success page
Communications Manager

The Alexander Dawson School

The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain, an independent school located on 33-acres in the community of Summerlin, is Nevada’s first Stanford University Challenge Success partner school for students in early childhood through grade eight. Utilizing the unique Challenge Success framework, Dawson uses research-based strategies and programs that emphasize student academics, wellbeing, and a healthy school-life balance to create more engaged, motivated, and resilient learners and leaders. At Dawson, students achieve their individual potential while savoring life and meeting the challenges of the world.