Committee for Children Blog

Product and Innovation: 2021 Year in Review

Product innovation year in review.

By Mia Doces and Polly Stansell

This year emphasized how important it is to be innovative when responding to the evolving needs of students and educators. As the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, we continued to provide our trusted family of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs while also debuting and adapting new programs and supports for students, schools, and communities. Our newest offerings are designed to empower kids, promote well-being, build stronger communities, and foster equitable and inclusive learning experiences for all.

We made our Second Step® programs more accessible and culturally relevant with digital, Spanish language, and adult SEL offerings. We expanded beyond classroom curricula with an interactive emotion-management toy, at-home SEL-based activities for families, and a podcast series focusing on social justice issues. And in pursuit of our vision of safe children thriving in a peaceful world, we offered a fellowship to inspire the next generation of SEL media creators.

As we approach the end of this whirlwind year, we’d like to celebrate the groundbreaking work we accomplished in 2021. We look forward to continuing to partner with educators, school leaders, and all SEL advocates to serve students and communities in the new year.

Winter 2021

Imagine Equity Podcast Series
In February, the team behind our award-winning podcast The Imagine Neighborhood™ released the Imagine Equity series, a new anti-racism podcast series to help children understand racial identity, diversity, and justice. This series was funded by The Allstate Foundation. Imagine Equity: Six New Stories About Race, Identity, and Making Things Right focuses on helping young people recognize prejudice and injustice and start conversations about systemic inequities youth face today. Through imaginative, playful stories, the podcast promotes family engagement and empowers listeners to take pride in their identities, celebrate diversity, and stand up against discrimination.

Second Step® Elementary Digital Program
In mid-March, we launched the Second Step Elementary digital program, a fully web-based SEL curriculum for Grades K–5. Development of the program involved extensive field research and conversations with educators, students, principals, and parents. The result is a program that’s engaging, easy to implement, culturally relevant, and developmentally appropriate for students. It includes a robust set of accessible resources to support teachers and students both in and outside of class, and its digital format allows for continuous improvement.

Spring 2021

Purrble® Toys
Powered by research-based technology and inspired by core SEL concepts, the cuddly Purrble companion is a toy that helps kids manage their emotions and feel calm. In May, we kicked off the Purrble education sales pilot with the goal of understanding how the interactive toy can be used in school environments. All inventory sold out in two months. In November, the Purrble toy made the cover of TIME as one of the Best Inventions of 2021. In just one year, it has become one of the top toys that help kids handle big emotions.

No Filter with Count Vacula
In May, The Imagine Neighborhood podcast debuted a new spinoff show for Count Vacula, the friendly robotic vacuum cleaner. This talk show is designed to help children practice social-emotional skills, such as building friendships and fostering compassion, at home. With guests including Tig Notaro, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Peter Sagal, and others, No Filter with Count Vacula provides an engaging, relatable way for kids to learn how to build common ground and establish healthy relationships.

Summer 2021

Second Step® SEL for Adults
In June, we released Second Step SEL for Adults, our first professional development program for K–12 educators. The program is research-based and designed to provide the social-emotional skills and resources teachers need to feel supported in the workplace. Program modules cover SEL domains like building trust and managing stress, which are more important than ever as teachers face record levels of stress and burnout. Created for educators by educators, Second Step SEL for Adults is built to strengthen the social-emotional well-being of all adults in a school.

Teen Force! Fellowship
In June, The Imagine Neighborhood podcast team launched its first-ever fellowship for teens and young people interested in audio and video recording. The fellowship was funded by The Allstate Foundation and provided an opportunity for teens to create their own segments for The Imagine Neighborhood. We assembled an exceptionally talented group of high school storytellers from around the nation. Under the apprenticeship of a professional podcast production team, the teens shared their voices, became SEL advocates, and used their creativity to make meaningful content for kids and families.

Fall 2021

Second Step® Programa Extraescolar
In October, we continued to honor our mission of increasing the accessibility of our programs with the release of Second Step Programa extraescolar, a Spanish-language version of Second Step® Out-of-School Time. Second Step Programa extraescolar is designed to foster the safety and well-being of all children through social-emotional learning and development outside of school. The program helps elementary students practice social-emotional skills like growth mindset and community building.

Expanded Language Supports
In November, we announced that Spanish-language materials for the full Second Step Elementary and Second Step® Middle School digital programs are currently in progress. We’ll soon begin rolling releases of these Spanish-language classroom materials. Starting in mid-December, we’ll be translating K–8 family communications and open house materials into 10 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Tagalog. All program supports will eventually be updated as part of our ongoing commitment to improving accessibility for educators and students.

Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood
In November, we announced Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood, an activity book designed to accompany The Imagine Neighborhood podcast. The interactive book includes almost 100 pages of SEL-based games, drawing prompts, DIY crafts, and more—all designed to support the learning objectives of the podcast in fun and creative ways. Funded by The Allstate Foundation, Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood furthers our commitment to reaching kids in all facets of their lives.

And more to come

For more than 40 years, we’ve remained committed to our mission of promoting the safety and well-being of children. Our successes this past year brought us closer to fulfilling our North Star Goal of positively transforming the social-emotional well-being of 100 million children annually by 2028. Moving forward, we’ll continue to ​empower kids with the social-emotional skills they need to build a safe and peaceful future.