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,

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

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.