Leading with the Heart

Bringing Bullying Prevention to Life

Taproot Theatre
Based in Seattle, The Taproot Theatre’s Road Company brings dynamic, educational plays to students throughout the Pacific Northwest. Each school year, Taproot uses many of the lessons in the Second Step program to help kids understand how to recognize, refuse, and report bullying.... Read more

Walking the Talk

Chicago Public Schools
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is giving Chicago Public Schools’ students the skills they need to succeed both socially and academically while also helping to calm some of the upheaval caused by the recent closure of 49 schools. And one of the SEL tools they’re using is the Second Step program.… Read more

Head Start Success with SEL

Isaac lives in a profoundly poor Buffalo neighborhood. When he started in the Head Start program, his lack of social-emotional development showed in his classroom behavior. He wouldn’t join the class circle and he had a hard time verbalizing his feelings. As the months progressed, he started developing better conversational skills with the other children and retaining many of the Second Step lessons that he was learning in class.… Read more

Closing the Achievement Gap in Toppenish

Kirkwood Elementary, Toppenish, WA
“It was becoming very clear that if we were to close the achievement gap in math, we would need to get the students safely to the table to do math first,” says Kirkwood Elementary School Principal Shelby Robins. The school, whose 700-student population is largely Native American and Hispanic with 99% free and reduced lunches, also has an achievement gap in social skills and needed to curb physical aggression and defiance in the classroom.… Read more

Academics Up, Referrals Down

Mary Todd Elementary, Lexington, KY
When last we spoke with Principal Kari Kirchner in the spring of 2012, she had used Title 1 funds to buy Second Step kits for her school, Mary Todd Elementary in Lexington, KY. In early 2015, we checked in with her to see how things had changed in the last three years. For one thing, the school’s enrollment has increased to 482 students, 94 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch … Read more

Seeds of Success

John Wister Elementary, Philadelphia, PA
Despite the hardships of being an underfunded school with a majority of students living in poverty, John Wister Elementary shines a light on the good, bringing out the best in its community. The relatively small school (350-plus students) with a big heart is located in the historic Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Its much-loved principal, Mrs. Donna Smith, has worked tirelessly for the past 12 years to create a positive place where her students—or “babies,” as she calls them—can learn … Read more

Back by Popular Demand in Seattle

John Stanford International School, Seattle, WA
Seattle’s John Stanford International School started using the Second Step social-emotional learning program in the late 1990s, but when the counselor who taught it left, the lessons dwindled. And it started to show, says counselor Dan Turner: “Within a couple of years, we had a lot of comments from parents and teachers: ‘What happened to that program? Things are getting wild on the playground. What are the strategies we have for teaching students to cope? … Read more

Slovakian Schools Expand Social-Emotional Learning

Profkreatis, Non-Profit Organization, Slovakia
“I will share my toys.” “I help my classmates.” “I smile at people.” “I know how to agree.” “I listen to others.” “I resolve conflicts peacefully.” It’s children’s statements like these that motivate Profkreatis, a nonprofit organization in Slovakia, to promote and expand use of the Second Step program, or Druhy Krok, as the adaptation is called in Slovak. The program has made a huge impact on the social-emotional development of children in Slovakia … Read more

A Change for the Better in Pomona

Pomona Unified School District Head Start, Pomona, CA
In her job with the Pomona (CA) Unified School District’s Head Start program, Megan Wilson has to be very comfortable with change. Or, as she puts it, “Never a single day like any other day.” So when Wilson—who is Disabilities Coordinator but also oversees social-emotional learning—asked her teachers to implement the Second Step Early Learning program in their classrooms, she was … Read more

Bridging Gaps in Denver

The Bridge Project, Denver, CO
Although graduation rates generally have been on the rise across the nation, data indicates that 90 percent of youth living in public housing still aren’t graduating from high school. The Bridge Project—a community collaboration with the University of Denver (DU), private contributors, and the Denver Housing Authority—aims to improve that statistic with educational afterschool and summer programs that provide youth with positive role-models and … Read more

Creating Productive Citizens with Social-Emotional Learning

John Stanford International School, Seattle, WA
At Seattle’s John Stanford International School, teaching social-emotional skills is just as important as teaching reading or math. Principal Dedy Fauntleroy knows her students will benefit from these skills all their lives: “One of the reasons that social-emotional learning is so important is because our job at school is to create productive, happy citizens. And to that end we … Read more

Turnarounds in Tukwila

Cascade View Elementary School, Tukwila, WA
When Anne Marie Littleton, a social worker at Cascade View Elementary School in Tukwila, WA, first started teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) to her students, she saw widespread positive effects. Ms. Littleton especially saw an increase in her students’ coping skills: “I notice that my students now have access to more coping tools when dealing with strong emotions. I hear them coaching each others about what to do if they are angry …Read more

180-Degree Turns in Washington State

Sumner, WA, School District
“They’re not even the same kids anymore.” That’s what Sumner (WA) School District’s Comprehensive Guidance Coordinator, Jeannie Larberg, says of a group of third-graders after just a few weeks of social-emotional learning (SEL) in the form of the Second Step program. Some of these third-graders had limited SEL skills—and that was putting it mildly. “These kids had difficulty even sitting in a chair,”  …Read more

Kansas Project LAUNCH

University of Kansas School of Education
Project LAUNCH, which is part of the University of Kansas School of Education, evaluated the Second Step curriculum in an intensive summer program. The summer program, which served 106 children from ages 3 to 16, was an eight-week intensive psychosocial intervention, during which the children were taught the Second Step program. The children who participated in the study all had a diagnosis of social-emotional disturbance …Read more

Ready for Kindergarten in New York State

Western New York State
The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation know young children need to be ready for kindergarten not just academically, but socially and emotionally ready, too. So they partnered to co-fund the Positive Emotional Development and Learning Skills (PEDALS) project to find a way to help prepare children for this important step in their lives …Read more

Winning Moments in Washington, DC

Arts and Technology Academy,  Washington, DC
Social-Emotional Learning Specialist Sarah Hensler and her colleagues at Washington, DC’s Arts and Technology Academy were heartbroken to learn their charter would not be renewed. Hensler was especially disappointed, because a Second Step kit had just been purchased for every classroom, and she envisioned the program “becoming a self-sustaining part of our positive school culture.” But rather than allowing the news of the …Read more

Middle Schoolers Use Drama to Take Down Bullying

Shawnee Mission, Kansas
Shawnee Mission School District has brought together drama, social–emotional learning, and middle schoolers to create a perfect recipe for preventing bullying in their elementary schools. The Kansas school district uses the Second Step program district-wide, and the district leadership wanted “an intentional opportunity for middle school students to educate our elementary students in bullying …Read more

Using Title I to Fund Social-Emotional Learning

Mary Todd Elementary, Lexington, KY
Principal Kari Kirchner and her school, Mary Todd Elementary, are not new to the Second Step program. “We had used it previously because we like the intentionality of the lessons,” Kirchner says. “They give the students clear examples and behaviors and are very user-friendly for the teachers.” So when Kirchner found out that a fourth edition of the Second Step program was to be released, she knew it would be a great addition …Read more

Dramatic Change in School Culture

Florence Griffith-Joyner Elementary, Los Angeles, CA
Principal John Sayers and Assistant Principal Nieves Rascón both came to Florence Griffith-Joyner Elementary in the fall of 2004. The school “is right in the middle of Watts” and across the street from Jordan Downs, the third largest public housing project in Los Angeles. About 90 percent of Griffith-Joyner’s 1,100 students live in the projects, and most of the students’ families face extreme economic hardship. “For them to survive …Read more

Title I Funding for Second Step Kits

Highland Park Elementary, Seattle, WA
When asked how he found the funds to buy Second Step kits for his school, Highland Park Elementary Principal Ben Ostrom laughs, “We had a need, and I looked at what money we could use to fill it.” But in order to get Title I funds, Ostrom had to present his case in a very specific way. “Title I requires a needs assessment and has to be connected with professional development,” he explains …Read more

Fewer Office Referrals in Washington, D.C.

District of Columbia Charter Schools, Washington, D.C.
"We have schools that are really starting to see some significant changes in regard to implementing with fidelity the Second Step program and incorporating other supports for students. Using all those things in conjunction…has helped to lower referrals to the student support teams, and therefore kids are doing better socially and emotionally," says Anise Walker, director of training and prevention education …Read more

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