Leadership and Service Learning

The leadership, service learning, and social justice programs at IDEAL foster the social and emotional development of confident and compassionate young people who are able to advocate for themselves and others, possess the self-awareness to take healthy risks that lead to growth, and are prepared to contribute their voice and talents to create a more just and equitable society.


Lower School

In the Lower School, leadership is integrated into the design of classes. Units such as the the Kindergarten's animal research project, the third grade's memoir project, and the school-wide Identity Museum allow students to explore areas of interest in greater depth and to display and present their interests to their peers. Each class collaborates on designing and leading one assembly over the course of the year. Community Time brings students together to discuss current events and social justice issues, encouraging students to be critical thinkers and to form their own opinions and strengthening students' awareness of the wider world.

Arts events such as the annual Peace and Light Ceremony, Art Beat, and the fifth grade play encourage students to hone and showcase their work and talent. Fifth graders can join Middle School teams to develop their interests in sports while gaining valuable experience in the leadership skills of teamwork and accountability. All students work collaboratively with their teachers and classmates to develop developmentally-appropriate service projects that positively impact our community and give students opportunities to integrate their learning in a meaningful context.

Middle and High School

In the Middle and High Schools, students develop their leadership skills as they contribute together to the betterment of their community. As students of diverse backgrounds and abilities support and advocate for one another and collaborate effectively in groups and teams, they demonstrate leadership. Programs such as advisory, Project RISE, and student-led Community Time cultivate voice and confidence. The individualized curriculum allows High School students to take an advanced course through One Schoolhouse, to delve deeply into an area of interest, or to design an independent study with a teacher. Arts events such as the winter Peace and Light Ceremony and spring ArtBeat are highlights of the year and require students to produce and display their work. The eighth grade play is an annual IDEAL tradition in which eighth graders collaborate to write, produce, and direct an eighth grade musical for the school. Students also have a variety of opportunities to lead their peers and to contribute to the school community by serving as team captains, student government representatives, and club presidents.

Middle and High School Advisory

Every High School student is a member of a small advisory group co-taught by two faculty members who look after the academic, social, and emotional growth of each student and of the group as a whole. It is the role of the advisor to know each student as an individual and as a learner and to support the academic and personal growth of each student on a daily basis and in more strategic ways over the course of the year. Advisory groups gather briefly in scheduled times at the beginning and end of each day to touch base and to strengthen the sense of community before delving into academic classes or heading home. Advisory groups also meet at least once over the course of each week for guided discussions on topics related to mindfulness, health, friendship, conflict resolution, and growth mindset. The supportive relationships among adults and students in advisory cultivates collaboration and a willingness to take those healthy risks needed for growth and leadership.

Middle School Service Learning

Each Middle School grade discusses and chooses one issue impacting individuals in New York City to focus on throughout the year. Through facilitated discussions, guest speakers on the topic, and partnership with a non-profit organization, students are provided with opportunities to learn more about the issue and those it impacts through direct civic engagement. Service learning experiences are carefully scaffolded with intentional preparation and reflection, encouraging students to strengthen their understanding of their role in creating a more just and equitable community.

High School Service Learning: Project Rise

IDEAL’s signature three-year service project is designed by each student in partnership with a faculty mentor and provides students with lifelong learning and leadership skills.

Year One: Students take a semester-long class focused on the challenges faced by various populations in New York City and select one area for research and exploration through interviews, visits to non-profits, and research.

Year Two: Students complete 20 hours of service within the IDEAL community or in a non-profit organization or another organization that supports their focus area. Service hours are supervised by a mentor in the organization and a faculty member at IDEAL.

Year Three: Students complete a capstone project that includes further work with their chosen organization, presenting their research to the IDEAL community in assembly and a culminating conversation with their service organization

Social Justice Curriculum

IDEAL’s anti-bias and multicultural values are woven into the fabric of our curriculum and school. We support each student’s positive identity and attitude development by directly addressing the impact of stereotyping, bias, and discriminatory behavior, encouraging cooperative learning, and teaching conflict resolution. Students compare multiple perspectives in all of their classes as they develop empathy, voice, and self-advocacy skills. Social justice topics are also woven into the fabric of the advisory program. An inclusive education provides students with an excellent academic foundation and empowers them to succeed in a truly diverse society with self-confidence, acceptance, and compassion.

One Schoolhouse

The IDEAL School of Manhattan is a member of the One Schoolhouse Consortium. Membership in One Schoolhouse allows us to expand our High School course offerings. Upper-level electives offered through One Schoolhouse include Psychology, Latin 1, Marine Science, This I Believe: Activism in the Age of Disenfranchisement and Extremism. Through One Schoolhouse, IDEAL will also offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes including AP Spanish Literature & Culture and AP Music Theory. Summer transition classes include classes such as Summer Geometry. Girls can also take single-gender online classes through The Online School for Girls, now a subsidiary of One Schoolhouse. Students interested in taking a One Schoolhouse class and who meet the minimum course prerequisites are encouraged to see the Head of School for an application.

Civil Rights Journey and Capstone Project

Students in grades eight through eleven will engage in this Civil Rights Journey to the South in the spring of 2017 as a capstone to their study of civil rights issues and activists throughout their Middle School years. To prepare for the trip, each student selects an area of interest to research, which students will then document and blog about when they visit related sites. Over the course of this multi-day trip, students travel to historical sites in states such as Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, where they will have opportunities to stand in the places where history happened, walk in the shoes of America's civil rights leaders, and speak to those who were involved. Doing so will enhance students' experience and understanding of our country's history, as well as what it means to be powerful agents of social change. Upon returning, students work in groups to create documentary films synthesizing themes from their experiences. These films are shown in a final teach-in at the conclusion of the school year.


IDEAL sends students to the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, The Dalton School's From Diversity to Community Conference, and to the White Privilege Conference, which is sponsored by The Privilege Institute, as well as other relevant conferences in NYC each year. Students who attend these conferences are expected to bring ideas, observations, and take-aways back to the school and are encouraged and supported in implementing their ideas.