Core Values and the Personal Learning Framework

When looking at the Personal Learning Framework one of the key components to the Identity section is having students think about who they are and their core values. Ultimately, this can be a foundation to help students design goals.

For the past few years I have been trying to help my students think about their identity and develop a sense of self. However, I was finding that I always had a group of students who really struggled reflecting on themselves and communicating their values. Being an avid-skier, I had heard about something called the Flyin’ Ryan Hawks Foundation and felt it may fit this need in my classroom.

The Flyin Ryan Hawks Decision Program

Ryan Hawks was a well known freeskier out of Mad River Valley who went on to compete in the Freeride World Tour. Ryan passed away from injuries sustained at a Freeride World Tour event in Kirkwood, California. Shortly after Ryan’s passing, his family found a document on his computer where a few years before, Ryan had crafted his own core values. The Flyin’ Ryan Hawks Foundation was established “with the idea of EXPOSING people to Ryan’s core principles, INSPIRING them to explore and compose their own set of core values, and ACTING on the core principles they have composed.”

Implementation at Peoples Academy Middle Level

Being personally inspired by the Flyin’ Ryan Hawks Foundation, I started to hear more and more about the Decisions Program the Foundation had started. This program brings Ryan’s Core Values into schools and organizations as a way for students to write their own core values. I knew this would be a great fit for my students, especially those who had a hard time engaging in self reflective work. I reached out to South Burlington High School teacher, John Painter, who had a Rowland Fellowship last year where part of his fellowship was to work with area school to implement the Decisions Program. After my meeting with Painter, I knew that the FRHF Decisions Program would be a great way to kick-off this year’s PLP roll out in September and I could not be more thrilled with how the project took off.

In the start of year year we introduced our students to the FRHF and Ryan’s core values through video on the Foundation's website. Students were instantly inspired by Ryan’s story. It is so important to give our students real life examples of things we ask them to do. Ryan not only thought about his core values, but also set goals and achieved many of them. This was a powerful way to engage our students to think critically about their own core values, which can be a very difficult exercise for 12 and 13 year olds.

Next, we had our students reflect on how others saw themselves. How would their family describe them? How would their friends describe the student? Finally, how would they want to be described?

This started our conversation with students about their core values; the qualities and characteristics they want to be have in their life that will guide them. As teachers, we also were crafting our own core values list and sharing them with the students. We asked students to come up with a minimum of four core values, but many went above and beyond those expectations.

Finally, we had students go into iMovie on their iPads and turn their core values into a movie that would become a part of their PLP. The iMovies included images and music of their choice as a way to highlight their personal core values.

Students were so engaged in this project, many of them worked on their videos at home and shared them with their parents and friends while they were still in the creation stage. Having students craft their core values in this way gave us great insight into what drives our students and who they hope to become. We used these core values to then launch into the PLP, looking at how their core values will guide them in their life and think about what goals can set to help stay on the right track.

Parents Reactions to Students Core Values iMovies

One of the most rewarding aspects of this project was the reaction parents had while viewing their students’ core values iMovies. We had students start their student led conference this year by showing their video which was placed on the About Me section of their PLP. You could see the joy on the parents’ faces while watching the videos. Many parents asked to watch the videos multiple times and asked thoughtful questions to their children about both the process and the values the students selected. We asked parents for feedback after the student led conference, and it was overwhelming how many parents commented on how nice it was to see their students’ core values iMovie.

For more information about bringing the Flyin’ Ryan Decisions Program to your school or classroom please contact John Painter at

Maura Kelly is a 7th grade humanities teacher at Peoples Academy Middle Level in Morrisville, Vermont. She has a passion for working with young adolescents and believes in the power of a strong middle level program in developing students to be ready to face challenges in our world today. When Maura is not teaching you can find her out skiing and biking around the state of Vermont.