Grand Haven elementary schools add social emotional program

Krystle Wagner • Sep 7, 2017 at 2:00 PM

A social emotional program is being implemented at Grand Haven elementary schools this year.

The Grand Haven Schools Foundation provided a $20,000 grant supporting Grand Haven Area Public Schools fully implementing Second Step in preschool through fourth grade classrooms. Last year, elementary schools piloted the program “in some way,” said Kate Augustyn, the district’s special education director.

The curriculum focuses on the correlation between social emotional skills and improved behaviors, higher academic performance and overall health.

In “Step,” the “S” stands for say the problem without blame, “t” stands for think of solutions, “e” stands for explore the consequences and “p” stands for pick the best solution.

Teachers received kits with the curriculum lessons and related items, and will integrate the lessons weekly into the classroom schedule, said Augustyn.

After piloting the program, Augustyn said they looked at data and found that students were “more able to use their words to express their feelings and frustration if necessary.”

Educators also saw an increase in students’ interpersonal skills such as taking turns, waiting and sharing. Augustyn said Second Step provides opportunities to learn and practice those skills.

“It also gives everyone common language to use when problems should arise,” she said.

For the past few years, the Grand Haven Schools Foundation provided preschools scholarships for 3- and 4-year-old children. The foundation’s scholarships grew from seven in 2004 to 67 in 2016.

Grand Haven Schools Foundation Executive Director Katie Appold said the scholarships have been a “strategic focus” for the foundation, but there’s a need in the district and they plan to do what they can.

“We appreciated the due diligence the GHAPS team performed on this curriculum and we recognized its value for the critical early education years,” she said. “We’re very pleased to support this project, and trust our donors will support it as well.”

Superintendent Andy Ingall said children’s emotional and social wellbeing is “critical not only in ensuring they are ready to learn, but to lead long, healthy, productive lives.”

“Recently, the Center for Disease Control listed suicide as one of the top causes of death among the 15-24 age group,” Ingall said. “The Grand Haven Area Public Schools are making a concerted effort to address this in a proactive manner beginning with our youngest students.”

Through Second Step, Augustyn said she hopes students gain a better understanding on how they can communicate their feelings, understand why they’re feeling that way and how they can communicate those feelings.

Augustyn said they’re excited for this opportunity and thank the schools foundation for their support.

“We know how important it is to help students as they are learning the basic skills for life know what to say and how to work with their peers and others around them,” she said.

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