Manchester City Schools are implementing a new social and emotional learning (SEL) program into elementary schools. The Board of Education members present at the Nov. 12 meeting unanimously approved the Sanford Education Program to be brought into College Street Elementary School. Travis Hillis was not present.
Researched out of Arizona State University and John Hopkins, and aligned with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which is the clearing house for social emotional learning, the Sanford Education Program instantly caught the attention of Mary Gilbert, the assistant principal at College Street Elementary School. The thing that got her moving forward to present it to the Manchester Board of Education was its price – free.
“Our community has really grown. We’ve shifted with so much emotionally…with Adverse Childhood Experiences, and a shift in demographics with our culturally diverse children, with economically disadvantaged children, that we’ve got to look at not just academics, but the social emotional component as well,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert attended the Tennessee School Counselor and Administrator Leadership Institute and heard about the Sanford Harmony Social Emotional program. She keyed in on the program after learning it was a CASEL Select Program as a way to improve social learning in CSES.
“We believe that by cultivating and promoting a positive, healthy learning environment our students will be better prepared for future success. This program is flexible, easy to incorporate with everyday activities and lessons, and will provide additional support to our students as we undergo training to become a Trauma-informed School,” Gilbert explained.
The kits, which are provided to the school at no cost, differ by need and grade. Inside are lesson plan books for teachers, activities such as cards and a puppet. There are two main components to the program that will be integrated into the classrooms,, which are Meet up and Buddy up and Lessons and Activities.
Meet up and Buddy up are two classroom meeting-style lessons. Meet up is a classroom style meeting that aims to build social emotional learning. Buddy up pairs different students up in the classroom for 5-15 minutes a day.
Activities and Lessons are meant to be done once a week for around 45 minutes. The various lessons teach diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking, communication, problems solving and peer relationships.
“In many houses and classrooms, academics are taking a backseat because of the social- emotional needs of the students,” Manchester City Schools Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Mick Shuran said. “Without the tools to help address changing experiences of students, teachers will have a difficult time meeting their needs both academically and emotionally. The Sanford Harmony curriculum helps both students and teachers become aware of the different experiences we all face and better equip them to be successful members of our community.”
CSES counselor Ashely Thomas agreed with Shuran’s statement and added that the program can be used by teachers and counselors from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.
College Street Elementary School representatives attended a three day training session for the Trauma-informed School at University of Tennessee Space Institute. Once complete, staff will begin training for the Sanford Program in hopes of integrating the two together. The school will begin implementing the Sanford Education Program as soon as possible – some kits were backordered, thus delaying the process.
“It is our goal to meet the academic and emotional needs of all of our students,” said CSES Principal Tom Jacobs. “We believe we can achieve this through establishing a school culture where respect, responsibility, and a sense of community are not only valued, but modeled on a daily basis. Sanford Harmony can help us achieve this goal. ”
CASEL lists the benefits of SEL as improved academics, better behaviors and attitudes and a higher skillset.
“Social and emotional learning programs, which previously have shown immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic achievement, continue to benefit students for months and even years to come, according to a 2017 meta-analysis from CASEL, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, and the University of British Columbia,” according to the CASEL website.
The meta-analysis was published in 2011 by the Child Development, a peer-reviewed journal. It consisted of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. The report is titled “The Impact of Enhancing Student’s Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based universal Interventions.”
The study found that students introduced to SEL reflect an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement over students who were not exposed to SEL. This means students with SEL scored, on average, 11 percent on academic achievements better than their peers.
It also found that in 2005, 59 percent of U.S. schools already have programs to address the development and support of children’s social and emotional competencies, according to “School mental health services in the United States,” a report conducted from 2002-2003.
However, a 2006 national study conducted by Peter Benson for his book “All kids are our kids” found that only 29 percent to 45 percent of surveyed sixth-12th grade students (148,189 students in total) reported that they had social competencies such as empathy, decision making, and conflict resolution skills; and only 29 percent indicated that their school provided a caring, encouraging environment.
Gilbert hopes that by implementing SEL programs at a young age, students will have a better understanding to SEL and therefore less of a need for SEL-based education programs by the time they get to sixth grade.