Students and teachers at Nowlin Elementary are taking the first step toward problem solving, common language, and positive self-talk with a program called Second Step. This visual learning tool was provided by a grant from DFCU Financial and the Dearborn Education Foundation.
Recently, first grade students sat on the floor transfixed as Social Worker Ms. Elster quietly reviewed the Listening Position with calm enthusiasm. “Eyes are watching, ears are listening, voices are quiet, bodies are still,” said Elster, who brought the program to Nowlin at the end of last school year.
She then used photo examples of students in the listening position and those NOT in the listening position, and asked questions about what students see to illustrate her point. A soft puppy puppet named Fuzzy helps drive the points home.
“When we can use common language that both teachers and students understand with these stories to back it up, like listening position or belly breath or attention scope,” said Elster, “it makes it so much easier for everyone to get on task without wasting precious learning time.”
Second Step Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) gives students the tools to excel in and out of the classroom. The easy-to-teach program garners outstanding reviews from educators who’ve noticed schoolwide improvement and see even the most challenging students make progress in emotion management, situational awareness, and academic achievement.
Nowlin Principal Joshua Tynan has seen a huge impact. “Before we implemented this program, I had six or seven visits to the office a day by students for fights and other social problems,” he said. “Since Second Step, it has decreased these behaviors dramatically and I don’t think I’ve had one fight this year.”
It’s never too early to provide students and staff with tools to prevent bullying, according to Tynan, both in the school and in the community. Based on the latest field research, Second Step’s Bullying Prevention Unit teaches Kindergarten–5th grade students how to recognize, report, and refuse bullying.
Public Relations Director for Dearborn Schools Dave Mustonen sees a community benefit as well. “When members of the community and parents ask, ‘What is Dearborn doing for a safe culture and climate?’ we can point to programs like these that help students ignore distractions, reinforce positive self-image, and manage frustration. That’s a big deal.”
The program is used by all grades at Nowlin and hopes are to transition it to middle school and high school classes.
“It’s so rewarding when we can make an impact on an entire school with our yearly grants,” said DFCU Branch Manager and VP Caryn Solferino. “Seeing the program in person really enhances our understanding of all we are doing and can do. DFCU is proud to do whatever we can to help students learn in this ever-changing environment.”