Social-emotional lessons adding to WF education
One of the goals in West Fargo Public Schools' 2016-2021 strategic plan revolves around
developing all students' physical, social, and emotional well-being. Since it takes parents,
community members, and teachers working together to support our youth, district initiatives
must focus on all of those groups as we take these important steps forward.
This year, elementary teachers and counselors have been implementing a new resource to
teach social and emotional skills to K-5 students. By the 2019-2020 school year, social
emotional learning (SEL) will be a required component of the elementary curriculum, much like
reading and math. Middle school counselors and teachers are beginning to develop social
emotional learning curriculum and both high schools are also implementing regular social
emotional lessons into their daily advisory periods.
Why such a focus on teaching students self-awareness, emotional regulation, social skills,
conflict resolution, decision-making, and relationship building? If schools aim to prepare young
people for life in today's complex and diverse world, then they must provide instruction in more
than just academic content. SEL is critical to students' long-term success in and out of school,
and it merits careful, sustained attention throughout K-12 education. Research indicates that
SEL competencies improve a student's academic performance, positive social behaviors, and
relationships during the school years; reduce behavior problems and psychological distress; and
help prepare young people to succeed in college, work, family, and society.
In addition to increased lessons for students, staff in six district buildings are participating in a
project focused on promoting happiness at work and in life. West Fargo High School, Sheyenne
High School, Cheney Middle School, L.E. Berger Elementary School, Eastwood Elementary
School, and the Leidal Education Center are participating in a community-wide initiative called
The People Project. The People Project is an opportunity for schools and businesses to learn
resiliency skills and promote mental wellness.
The People Project promotes the belief that just as physical health is more than the absence of
disease, mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Numerous studies have
shown that we can apply tools to retrain our minds to focus on the positive and improve our
well-being; we can build greater social connections, improve sleep and immune function, and
enhance memory. The tools are simple...and life changing. Practices that staff will promote
during the year-long project include random acts of kindness, expressing gratitude, finding your
flow, establishing connections, and determining self-value.
Lastly, West Fargo Public Schools is hosting a four-part series of parent forums with the intent
of building a community of support for our students. Administrators, students, the West Fargo
Police Department, and representatives from various community agencies have discussed
topics such as healthy online relationships, social media, and substance use, abuse, and
addiction. The last of the four-part series is on supporting mental health in youth and will be
Wednesday, April 24 from 6:45PM — 8:45PM at Sheyenne High School.
There will be presentations by Liberty Middle School students, a panel of local experts who will
answer questions from parents in the audience, and a keynote speaker, Dr. Kimberly Schonert-
Reichl. Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is an Applied Developmental Psychologist and a professor
for the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education at the
University of British Columbia.
Dr. Schonert-Reichl is a renowned expert in the area of social and emotional learning research with children and adolescents. This event is open to the public.