Committee for Children Blog

Creating a Safe, Caring Learning Environment

middle school kids chatting

Middle school is a time of change, as well as a time for students to further develop skills like handling strong emotions, setting and meeting goals, making good decisions, and forging positive relationships. Educators and staff at Meridian Middle School in Kent, Washington, are using Second Step® Middle School to build the safe, supportive learning environment middle schoolers need to succeed.

In these short videos, leaders from Meridian Middle School share their experiences with Second Step Middle School. 

Why choose Second Step Middle School?

“We needed a common language to help kids feel safe and understood, and become more comfortable communicating with one another,” says Nancy Katzer, a teacher at Meridian Middle School. Guided discussions allow students to express emotions in group settings where they feel comfortable, and teachers appreciate the clear structure and progression of the program itself. 

How does the program foster positive relationships?

“Second Step provides students with the tools to develop their relationships with peers, helping open lines of communication and providing opportunities to address interpersonal conflict in a positive way,” Meridian Middle School teacher Amanda Bates says. The program helps foster a sense of trust between students and staff as well, ensuring that children know adults in the school community not only support them, but can speak to them with empathy when challenges arise.

How does it successfully engage students?

Classroom discussions, partner-share opportunities, and videos all work to successfully engage students at Meridian Middle School. When students see themselves represented in videos and can relate to the lesson scenarios, they’re more comfortable sharing personal experiences. “Placing an emphasis on all voices being valued further encourages students to actively participate,” says Evander Corley, a teacher at Meridian Middle School.  

How does the Second Step Middle School program’s web-based format benefit educators?

Teachers appreciate that the program is laid out clearly, preparation time is minimal, and it’s easy to track their progress. “Having a web-based program is a game-changer,” says Meridian Middle School Principal Darice Johnson. “Kids can relate to what they’re seeing on-screen while teachers can move around the classroom, letting them feel like they’re navigating through content with their students.”   

How does the program prepare students for a successful future?

“Second Step helps students become better learners, but also better people,” says Katzer. The focused time to work on social-emotional skills allows students to build strong communication skills, gain tools to help navigate challenges, and develop a growth mindset they can use throughout their school journey and into the future.

What do students like about Second Step Middle School?

Students at Meridian Middle School like that the program helps them “get through school and everyday life easier,” says one middle schooler. Students see themselves as more empathetic and better able to develop their relationships. They appreciate learning social-emotional skills—such as the counting technique they can use when experiencing anger—that they can apply today and in the future.