HCYMCA Introduces Sanford Harmony in Early Childhood and After School Childcare

 In Early Childhood Education

Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education

Social-Emotional Learning Teaches 21st Century Skills

The Hunterdon County YMCA is proud to announce implementation of a state-wide YMCA Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum for Pre-K classes at the Child Learning Center and Milford Preschool, and all After School Childcare locations.

The Sanford Harmony SEL Curriculum is recognized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as a CASEL SELect Program. CASEL was created because research has repeatedly shown that a long-term, intentional approach to social-emotional learning predicates positive outcomes for students in academics, physical health, career readiness, relationships and social adjustment. This approach requires a preschool through high school integration of the SEL curriculum across school-family-community partnerships. Sanford Harmony provided our Pre-K teachers and After School Childcare staff with the tools and guidelines to implement interesting, fun and age-appropriate learning activities so children can develop self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making, along with self-management and relationship skills. These are the 21st century skills that will send children off on the right foot for long-term success in life.

Sanford Harmony was developed by the Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. T. Denny Sanford is a billionaire sunset philanthropist committed to donating his banking fortune to philanthropic causes, with a particular interest in educational opportunities for children. The program was introduced to elementary schools in 2008 and has since migrated from ASU to National University for further development and dissemination. National University was renamed Sanford University in recognition of Sanford’s continued contributions. The Sanford Harmony SEL toolkits provide NJ YMCA Pre-K teachers and After School Childcare staff a curriculum plan including thematic lessons, activities, storybooks and games. There are weekly and monthly lesson plans, as well as daily “Meet Up” and “Buddy Up” activities, which provide simple scenarios for children to talk through, building their skills such as discussing opinions and feelings, as well as listening to others.

For the younger grades such as Pre-K through grade 1, teachers read from a storybook featuring the character Z, an alien from another planet who does not know how to make friends on earth. The stories walk us through Z’s trials and tribulations making friends, often soliciting help from our children in the Meet-Up. Following the story, children are tasked with a light challenge provoking communication, cooperation and problem-solving, often culling from the content presented in Z’s story. The general theory behind the activities is that when presented regularly with such scenarios and activities, children practice and become proficient in desirable pro-social-emotional behaviors. Eventually those behaviors become internalized as inclusive, empathetic, caring and understanding notions. Children also begin to more easily work through misunderstanding, disagreement and coping when things aren’t going their way. The CASEL research shows that these skills promote success and fulfillment in career and life, be it at school, work, home, or in the community.

In the embedded clip, you can see and hear children from the Pre-K class in a “Meet-Up” discussing what centers in the classroom they prefer, and reaching a consensus about which center all three enjoy in common. This activity fosters listening, self-expression and compromise in decision-making. Like many early childhood learning scenarios, what seems so simple on the surface, can truly have deep implications.


In the next clip, students in the After School Childcare program are having a “Buddy-Up.” They are talking about thoughts and feelings they might not normally share if not for the questions asked in the activity:


More information about the Sanford Harmony SEL curriculum can be found at https://online.sanfordharmony.org/. More information about the work and efficacy of CASEL can be found at https://casel.org/. The Hunterdon County YMCA Departments of Early Childhood Education and the After School Childcare Program are proud to do our part in shaping and preparing our young people for the evolving needs of student and adult success in the Twenty-first Century. For more information about these programs please contact Michael Reisman, Director of early Childhood Education (mreisman@hcymca.org) or Wendy Crocetti, Director of After School Childcare (wcrocetti@hcymca.org) or visit www.hcymca.org.





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