New curriculum at WPS teaches elementary students coping skills, emotional resilience, conflict resolution

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Woodland Public Schools’ elementary schools use social-emotional learning (SEL) to guide students through the development of a variety of life skills to help them at home, at school, and throughout their lives.

The skills include strategies for coping, ways to enhance emotional resilience, and respectful conflict resolution, among other skills.

All three of the district’s elementary schools receive the same SEL lesson each week, North Fork Elementary School Principal Denise Pearl said in a release from the district. Each lesson is tailored to a particular grade level.

For this school year, WPS elementary staff chose Character Strong, a new SEL curriculum that aligns social and emotional traits with lessons and activities to help elementary students develop the month’s focused trait while engaging with their classmates, according to the district. For September’s trait of courage, students took part in activities like “courage charades” where groups roleplayed different situations that require courage. Examples included confronting a bully or handling unfamiliar situations.

Teaching staff also participate in the lessons, the district stated. For September, staff members found stories of courage from the news, neighbors, friends and family to share with students during class to show courage taking place throughout the community.

The district says the Character Strong curriculum provides a more thorough approach for SEL.

“I’ve never seen a curriculum that’s so comprehensive. It includes a variety of lessons for students but also includes activities for staff engagement as well as a weekly podcast,” Pearl said. “The curriculum also provides reading lists for both teachers and parents to use with students with a selection of suggested books and other materials.”

The lessons from SEL translate to academic success as well, the district stated.

“Without a solid foundation in SEL, students do not have the skills they need to be successful in the classroom and learn what they need to academically,” North Fork Elementary School leadership/SEL teacher Stacia Aschoff said. “SEL helps students manage their emotions, teaches them anger control, helps them learn to have empathy for others, how to be accepting of all, and how to develop healthy friendships.”

Compared to other curriculum she’s used, Aschoff said Character Strong provides the most robust options for students.

“I am so happy with this new curriculum. It is the first that is truly geared toward our younger students and their specific social and emotional needs,” Aschoff said. “Character Strong provides amazing resources to teach each character trait: pictures, quotes, games, activities, videos and music.”

Although WPS staff has taught SEL previously, the COVID-19 pandemic made the lessons much more vital, the district stated.

“The pandemic has made this curriculum even more important as our students have had to deal with so much between remote learning and the different health guidelines,” Pearl said. “The kids are really excited to be back in school in-person, and these lessons help them become even more successful both in and out of school.”

Seeing students develop and succeed serves to motivate district staff themselves, the district stated.

“I get the chance to make a difference in a student’s life by teaching them the skills to become a successful adult,” Ashcoff said. “Just like in traditional academics, I get to watch a light bulb go off when my students develop a deeper understanding or empathy for why a classmate may act or feel a certain way while also understanding how their own actions may make others feel.”

The curriculum also provides activities for staff and students to use throughout the school including on the playground, the district stated.

Students who get into disagreements at recess can use a “peace labyrinth,” which is a physical printout where students can stand in different places of the labyrinth. It guides children through effective and respectful conflict resolution.

At North Fork Elementary School, staff worked with Advanced Electric Signs, a local Woodland company, to design and create signs to fit on the school’s stairs featuring traits taught in the SEL curriculum.

“We are so grateful to Advanced Signs for working with us to ensure we could have all of these installed before the beginning of the school year,” Pearl said.

More information about the curriculum is available online at characterstrong.com.

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