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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.


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