What is Educating to Flourish?

Educating to flourish is an approach to educational practice that promotes a focus on actualizing human potential. While this means continuing to prioritize the development of traditionally “academic” competencies, it also recognizes that these competencies are a small part of what leads human beings to live good, impactful lives. Using data-driven methods backed by various scientific fields such as neuroscience, educational psychology, behavioral economics, positive psychology and more, the goal of Shipley’s approach is to cultivate flourishing, the synergistic combination of well-being and optimal performance. Further, to do so for all constituencies that make up the entire Shipley community.

What is the History?

In 1998, renowned researcher and University of Pennsylvania Professor Martin Seligman became president of the American Psychological Association. Although his most famous work at that point was for “learned helplessness” and depression, he switched gears to concentrate on how we might make what’s already good even better. Rather than focus on fixing what depletes us, Seligman challenged the scientific community to figure out how to build what’s best in us. He called for research that would aid in the establishment of positive institutions—and educational institutions were among the first to adapt, Shipley among them.

What Have We Learned?

Research that preceded Dr. Seligman’s historic address to the APA and the vast amount of research that followed it over the past three decades has helped scholars identify a handful of components that are core to most human beings's ability to thrive. They make up the core of what Shipley believes is key to unlocking human potential. Below, you will find a sample of the frameworks Shipley has compared and synthesized in order to inform our approach.

Where Will We Go Next?  

Shipley is a pioneer in educating to flourish among Pre-K through grade 12 schools in North America. We are excited about the ongoing integration of our efforts toward flourishing individuals and communities with diversity and inclusion practices and will look to serve as the model institution for other schools who want to change the world for the better.

List of 2 items.

  • Reason Behind Shipley’s Focus on Flourishing

    As we learned more about what has been historically referred to as “Positive Education”, it became clear that Shipley has always been committed to the philosophy underlying Positive Education. However, there are now multiple scientific frameworks as well as evidence-based educational practices and tools to better strengthen the excellent programs and initiatives we already have in place. Using a variety of models for human flourishing and psychological well-being, Shipley has identified eight components that are core to a life well-lived, which we call the Shipley Framework for Flourishing.
    • Safety: Physical & Psychological
    • Vitality & Health: Acknowledging the fundamental fact of the mind-body connection and the inescapable reality that sleep, nutrition, movement, and breath all serve as keys to unlocking our best selves both physically and mentally.
    • Belonging & Connection: A sense that we can show up as our true, authentic selves and that others can do the same while still co-existing in ways that create win-win outcomes for all. 
    • Emotional Awareness & Agility: An understanding of and comfort with the range of emotional signals (both pleasant and unpleasant) that inform us and help us grow into our best selves. 
    • Character: The awareness, appreciation, and development of strengths of personality that allow us to live virtuous lives and positively impact the people and projects we are a part of. 
    • Accomplishment: The completion of meaningful goals and the development of competencies that provide a sense of efficacy, mastery, and satisfaction while equipping us to navigate an increasingly complex world. 
    • Meaning and Purpose: A connection to things (e.g. groups, communities, or causes) that allow us to transcend our own self-interest and make a contribution.
    • Deep Engagement: Experiences of flow, states of deep immersion that allow us to access our highest potentials and experience deep satisfaction as a result. 
  • How does educating to flourish interact with Shipley’s SEED program (Social, Emotional and Ethical Development)?

    Educating to flourish at Shipley is, in so many ways, the natural next step in the development of our SEED program. Led by the Co-Director of Positive Education & Student Support, Dr. Sharron Russell, and a group of other PreK - grade 12 colleagues, SEED has been at the heart of our efforts to support our students both as learners and as people. Enhancing Shipley's successful SEED program was a key component of Vision 20/26, the Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2016. Knowing that SEED is integral to achieving our goal of Educational Excellence (i.e. individual well-being, collective well-being, and academic achievement), we are committed to advancing our position as a recognized leader in social, emotional, and ethical development so each of our students continues to be uniquely prepared for success in all walks of life. There is no rigid teaching method for helping students thrive; rather it is a community-wide approach to developing life skills to improve well-being for ourselves, our students, and ultimately strengthening everything we already do at Shipley, including SEED.

Meet the Team

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Sharron Russell

    Sharron Russell 

    Director of Student Support and Well-Being
    Phone/Extension: 4116


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.