Curricula & Programs

Our Curriculum

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The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum’s “Courage in My Life” for fifth and sixth graders is a year-long social-emotional language arts program based on the value of courage and is used in Boston Public Schools and in local parochial, charter, and private schools.

It empowers students to realize that their actions and decisions can be powerful agents of change. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students discover and recognize the role of courage in the lives of the characters they read about, in the lives of those around them, and in their own lives—past, present, and future.

Stage One:

Max’s Story

Students begin the curriculum by reading about Max Warburg and watching a video about his life. The power of Max’s story lies not in his early death, but in how he dealt with adversity. His positive attitude and actions show students that they too are capable of acts of courage.

Stage Two:

Novels & Discussion

The curriculum uses novels as a starting point for classroom discussions, teachers help students understand that courage can take many different forms. One of the goals of the curriculum is to help young people understand that we all face challenges in life—both large and small—and that we all have the capacity to be “everyday heroes.” Through this program, children come to realize that their actions can be powerful agents of change.

The teachers can select any novel they feel fits the demographics and needs of the classroom, that provide a framework to think about courage.  Sample texts are:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
    The story of two social outsiders who find solace, identity, and self-confidence in friendship and imagination.
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
    Jeffery Lionel Magee is a homeless drifter who finds his way into a racially divided community where he amazes the townspeople with feats of strength and bravery.
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
    Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen becomes part of the effort to save Danish Jews from the Nazis in World War II Denmark, risking her life to help her best friend.
  • Taking Sides by Gary Soto
    A star basketball player from the barrio of San Francisco struggles to belong when his family moves to a prosperous white suburb.
  • Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton
    A young Kenyan boy shares his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation, boarding school escapades, soccer success, and journey to America for college.

Stage Three:

Courage Essays

As the culminating activity of the program, each student writes an essay on the topic of “Courage in My Life.” The process of writing and editing the essay brings all the pieces of the curriculum together—reading, writing, critical thinking, and group discussions. Though the students’ stories vary widely, the common theme of courage unites them all.

The students’ essays are entered into a contest, where a panel of judges comprised of local authors, professors, journalists, educators, and members of the community reads each of the essays. The winning essays are published in our annual essay publication.

Submission deadline: All entries must be submitted by January 31.

Teach the Curriculum

Curriculum Guides

Teachers will receive the curriculum guide below, which include lesson plans that are aligned with city and state learning standards. Teachers also have access to multimedia, including a 3-minute piece about Max Warburg to show students as an introduction to the curriculum.

Frequently asked questions

How do I implement the Courage Curriculum in my classroom?

We know that no one understands the unique needs and character of your classroom better than you do. For this reason, our program is designed to be flexible and easily adapted to best fit your classroom. Each participating teacher will receive the new MAXCourage Curriculum that is flexible for all classrooms while remaining aligned with the Common Core State Standards.  We hope you will feel empowered to use what works for you, knowing there is absolutely no requirement to use all materials. Some teachers will use all five novels in the classrooms, others will supplement from their own reading lists. 

Supplemental Resources

Informative links:

About the authors:

View Our Classroom Videos

National Essay Contest

Launched in 2010, our national essay contest is open to any student in grades 5 to 8 in the United States, outside of the Greater Boston area.

The contest encourages students from diverse backgrounds to share personal experiences with exceptional acts of courage in their communities and in their lives. Our goal in creating the national essay contest is to engage new communities in our work and build long-lasting relationships with schools and educators outside of Boston.


In the student’s own voice, he or she must represent his or her understanding of the nature of courage, while describing a moment when the student demonstrated or witnessed courage. While we encourage students to write about a specific time when they have demonstrated courage, some may be more comfortable writing about someone else. This is perfectly acceptable.

Eligibility & Entry Rules

  • All students in grades 5 to 8 in the United States, outside of Greater Boston, are welcome to submit essays.
  • Essay submissions must be the student’s original work.
  • Essays can be typed or handwritten, and should not exceed 2 pages.
  • Each teacher must submit an official entry form.
  • Only 1 entry per student.
  • Submit essays and forms together to the Max Warburg Courage Curriculum:
  2. By email to with “Essay Contest” as the subject line or
  3. By mail to The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum, 263 Huntington Avenue, Box 366, Boston, MA 02115
  • Submission deadline: All entries must be postmarked by February, 2021

Judging Process

Essays will be judged by an experienced volunteer panel. Our judges agree to keep the content of the essays confidential. All essays are pre-screened by the Max Courage staff and all proper procedure is followed to ensure the safety and well-being of students.

Contest Winners

The winning submissions are printed in our annual essay publication, The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond.

Examples of winning essays can be found in past volumes of our annual essay publication. This collection of essays demonstrates the rich spectrum of experience, writing style, and ability that we celebrate in our programs. We invite you to explore these examples and share them.

Registration Documents

International Partnerships

Since courage is universal, in 2007, we began building sustainable, long-lasting relationships with schools and communities around the world to respond to a growing need for accessible, proven literacy and character development curricula around the world.

Our goal is to engage with students, teachers, and learning communities in reading and writing, while also empowering them to discover, recognize, and celebrate the courage around them in their lives.

To date, we have partnered with schools and communities in the following countries:

  • Belize
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • India
  • Lebanon
  • Mongolia
  • Mozambique
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Thailand
  • The United Kingdom
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen

But that’s not the end of the story. Thanks to our partner organizations, our list continues to grow. We can use your help too! For more information regarding international partnership opportunities, please email our office at

Courage beyond borders.

Our annual essay publication also includes essays submitted by international students and translated into English by their teachers.

See what some of our international students had to say about courage in their lives!

Annual Essay Publication

Every year, we publish an annual essay publication, The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond, featuring essays submitted by students of the fifth and sixth grade curriculum.

The Publication

The essays in these volumes feature astonishing and inspiring feats of courage from students around the globe.

In print:

To receive print copies of past editions, please contact us.


Click the links below to download the volume you want:

The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond

Essay Readings

Hear the stories of courage,
read by the authors themselves.

Essay Submissions

If you are an educator and would like to participate in our program and submit your students’ essays for inclusion in the next volume of The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond, please contact us.