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Transforming Children and Schools September 18, 2011

Transforming Children & Schools: The Nurtured Heart Approach

Sherry A Blair from ISIS Innovative Specialists Inspirational Services, LLC, Montclair, NJ, US

The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is a social emotional curriculum developed for building relationships where students are intrinsically motivated both academically and pro-socially. Teacher/student relationships evolve into a mentoring culture. Students become invested and engaged in the learning process.

At its core NHA creates positive relationships in the academic context. NHA focuses on the use of language as a scaffold to build “inner wealth” through every interaction. Through first hand experiences of success these relationships provide opportunities for social emotional development and building self confidence. NHA shift s classroom culture by actively nurturing positive, healthy relationships and creating a safe environment for students.

NHA began in 1999, as a therapeutic intervention for treating difficult children in family therapy. In the past decade, it has evolved to become the primary approach in an estimated 10,000 schools in the U.S., England, Belgium, Israel, Germany, South Africa, and Australia. It is also is successful in residential treatment programs and therapeutic foster care programs across the country. Illinois, Washington State, and Northern California are among the first states to adopt the approach district wide and in their foster care programs.

Why use this approach in schools? Tolson Elementary School, Tucson, AZ: NHA was implemented school wide in 1999. Th ey had 8x the district average of school suspensions. Special education utilization was 15%. In 2006, special education utilization dropped to 1%. Teacher attrition rates dropped from 50% to 1% saving the district thousands in training and hiring costs. There have been no cases of bullying and 0 children referred to outside mental health agencies for mental health screening. Additionally, utilization of gifted and talented programs increased from 1% to over 15%. Only one child has been suspended twice in ten years. Prior to NHA implementation there were 36 suspensions.

Geelong Grammar School’s journey with Positive Education

Karen Reivich1, Charles Scudamor from University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA; Geelong Grammar School, Corio, VIC, Australia

Geelong Grammar School, a coeducational Australian boarding school continues to pioneer the introduction of the tenets of Positive Psychology into all facets of the school’s operation. Over the past three years, 250 Geelong Grammar staff members have undertaken multi-day training workshops in Positive Psychology led by Professor Martin Seligman and Doctor Karen Reivich from the University of Pennsylvania. Geelong Grammar School explicitly teaches Positive Education as part of their academic curriculum in Years 7, 9 and 10. Th is workshop will provide an overview of the key steps Geelong Grammar School has undertaken in integrating a whole school approach to Positive Psychology, including lessons learnt over the past three years and future directions in implementation. Dr. Karen Reivich will outline the key skills covered in the staff training and explain the sustainable training model that Geelong Grammar School has adopted. Two specific activities will be presented and discussed: the way in which relationships at the school are enriched through the knowledge of Active Constructive Responding, and how the field of Character Strengths is addressed amongst staff and students with particular importance placed upon the VIA acronym – Values In Action.

Charles Scudamore, Vice Principal at Geelong Grammar School will discuss specific Positive Psychology initiatives in the academic and co-curriculum domains of the four campuses of the school covering the Early Learning years through to Year 12. Some preliminary well-being data collected at the School will be presented and there will be an opportunity for workshop participants to ask questions.

Teaching Positive Psychology to Adolescents: 3 Year follow-up

Jane Gillham1,2, Michael Bernard3 from 1Swarthmore College, Psychology Department, Swathmore, USA, 2University of Pennsylvania, Psychology Department, Philadelphia, PA, USA, 3Th e University of Melbourne, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Melbourne, Australia

We present findings from a longitudinal, randomized controlled study of a high school positive psychology program (Reivich, Seligman, Gillham, Linkins, Peterson, et al., 2003). The program is based largely on Seligman’s (2002) theory of happiness and includes 25 lessons designed to promote students‘ positive emotions, character strengths, and sense of meaning. We randomly assigned 347 9th grade students (ages 13-15) to the positive psychology program or to a school-as-usual control. The positive psychology program was delivered during the first year of high school (9th grade) and students were followed until the end of high school. We collected data on students’ emotional well-being, behaviors related to character strengths, and academic achievement.

Short-term findings (presented during the first IPPA World Congress) suggested that the positive psychology program increased students’ social skills (e.g., empathy, cooperation)and increased students’ engagement in school. Effects were particularly strong among students with lower levels of achievement at baseline. We have recently completed our final assessments for this project. We will present the longterm findings, through students’ final year of high school.

This material is re-posted from the program of The Second World Congress on Positive Psychology from August 2011.


One hell of a dream September 12, 2011

Fall 2000-Spring 2001 I was in NYC, struggling to adjust to new culture and find ways to go to grad school. In the summer of 2001 I made a friend, who got killed two months later in a car accident. When I learned about her death, I was in California, on a spontaneous trip from San Fran to Los Angeles. Running out of money, I couldn’t continue my trip even further, so I remember getting to the Los Angeles Airport and buying a $100 ticket in cash to New York, where I still had some of my stuff. It was the 10th of September 2001.

What is really strange, I remember being on the plane and having the feeling of detachment and emptiness. I wasn’t afraid of anything happening on the flight, as I had nothing to lose, I thought. In a way I didn’t see any meaning in my life. I was just passing by.

When I arrived in New York, I went straight to my friend’s place, who lived in Brooklyn. In the morning of Sept 11, I was still sleeping when the land line phone rang. I didn’t want to pick it up but to continue sleeping. The answering machine was on and I heard my friend saying: “Marina, wake up, wake up, the war has started”. I immediately picked up the phone and still not completely awake tried to understand what she was saying. She told me about the first tower going down. And then I turned TV on and learned the whole story: the terrorist attack on America. My friend’s apartment was in the basement of a small house, the owners, an Orthodox Jewish family, lived upstairs. According to their religion they didn’t watch TV, but on that day, the couple came to watch TV too. We all wanted to know what will happen to the country, to us, to the whole world. We felt horror, grief, shock and fear. We felt compassion for all. As I stepped outside the house, in the middle of the day there were no sun, only grey clouds covering the sky and pieces of ash falling down on us. It did look like the end of the world.

I was scared and wanted to escape, to go back to Massachusetts, but couldn’t do it for several days as all public transportation was shut down between cities .When I finally made it back to the Vineyard, I met up with a friend of mine who knew Lena, the one who died in the car accident. That friend said that we should not worry about Lena, as she definitely went to heaven, not hell. Still horrified by the latest events, I was thinking too much about Lena, the victims of 9/11 and myself… How unfair their deaths are. Who decides who will die or who will live? Are we worth living?.. And right after our conversation I had a dream:

I’m in the office, there are people around me, who are working. I’m doing something as well, probably, work too. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a man dressed as a government official comes to me and says: “Your time is up, you have to go.” Taken by surprise I couldn’t help but ask in return: “Already? And who decided? Where, to hell?” He doesn’t answer, which I interpret as “not heaven”. I try again by asking: “Is it final?” He quietly says: “Yes”. All I could say is “I don’t agree, I demand to see a decision maker”. He, definitely surprised by this turn in our conversation, pauses but then gives me a sign to follow him. I enter some private office, the messenger man leaves and the door closes behind him. And in there I see another man, more established, in gray suit, sitting at the desk. He doesn’t speak, because he knows that I asked for this audience and I’m the one who will be speaking.

I don’t even remember how but I sat in a chair in front of the table and full of emotions I started my emotional speech.”Why do you think that it is my turn that came? Is it because I didn’t do any good deeds in this lifetime? Because I only wasted my time given to me? If I haven’t done anything so far, that doesn’t mean that I will not do anything in the future. You are supposed to give everyone a chance. There are circumstances and a person may experience difficulties, but that doesn’t mean that she is not capable of anything good. I know that I have a lot ahead of me. And may I ask what kind of right do you have to deprive me of my life, when my parents are alive? My mother told me that she will not be able to survive the death of her children. Did you think about consequences of your decision?  That by ending my life you will end the life of my mother?”

All that time the man in gray suit, who was the boss of that department or the chief of death, and on whose decision depended whether I’ll live or die, didn’t look at me even once. He was busy writing something in his notebook. I couldn’t see what he was doing exactly or what his was writing. Maybe he was taking notes about my life, or was studying my life case. I was scared as I thought he was calculating and weighing what I’ve done more in my life – good or bad. In every moment he could stop me and say “Enough, your case is closed, not sufficient evidence to let you live…”

And suddenly, I saw him put his notebook on the desk and I peeked in it. In front of me in this whole grayish setting I saw on the paper a big red heart that the man drew while I talked. And in that moment I realized that I’m allowed to live more but under condition that I create more good things in my lifetime. And I woke up.

Reposted from


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