Middle school students and undergraduate Jackson Scholars connect over shared academic experiences as an icebreaker at the After-School Ethics and Leadership Academy.

Learning the fundamentals of utilitarian theory, Kantian theory, and virtue ethics might seem like your average college course, but in South Carolina, 6th graders can learn  these same lessons in ethics and reasoning! Through an innovative after school program, The Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values at Coastal Carolina University connects middle school students with philosophy undergraduates to expand the ethical horizons of both while connecting the local community.

The Center advances ethical awareness through thoughtful and intentional community outreach through their After-School Ethics and Leadership Academy. The program partners with teachers and administrators from the area’s middle schools to identify local students to participate in the Academy every Spring. Locally, the Academy serves as “a way to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and the community, and to bring ethics education to young people in our area,” according to Center Director Julinna C. Oxley.

The ethical problem solving skills taught in the academy culminate as final group projects to solve environmental ethics problems. Campus and community stakeholders bring issues affecting the region to students to spur local thinking. Past examples include school lunch menus focused on local and healthy foods, drinking straws made of ice to replace single-use plastic, and eco-friendly recreation centers tailored to local needs. “The middle-schoolers come away with new knowledge, new friends, and a college experience” says Oxley.

In alignment with their mission statement, The Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values continues to create opportunities for conversations about ethics and values beginning with their own community.  More information about the Center and the Academy can be found on the The Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values at Coastal Carolina University website.

Has ethics made a difference at your institution over time? Contact Alexis Jimenez Maldonado, alexismaldonado@fas.harvard.edu, with ideas for forthcoming Spotlights.

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