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I’m not sure why, but when I hear “executive function” my brain begins singing the Schoolhouse Rock! Conjunction Junction song. No, not you? Ok, maybe it’s just me! Saturday morning cartoons are definitely a missed child development opportunity.

We hear a lot about executive functioning skills in conversations today. But, what are these skills, and why are they important? The twelve executive functioning skills are self-restraint, working memory, emotional control, focus, task initiation, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, defining and achieving goals, flexibility, observation, and stress tolerance. Knowing what these skills are, we can all infer why they are important. In addition to our own thoughts, a Harvard research study indicates that executive functioning skill development, specifically emotional control and stress tolerance, is the number one predictor of school success.  In addition to predicting school success, emotional control and stress tolerance can significantly impact our relationships at home, in school, and at work. Underdeveloped emotional control and low-stress tolerance contribute to the increased mental health challenges in our students. So what is HBR doing about it?

Third graders working together brainstorming ways we can respect all things like PE equipment, art supplies, books, and each other!

As we continue to identify ways to #GetBackToBetter and prepare our students to be #ReadyToGo for their tomorrow, we have partnered with CharacterStrong – an organization that provides training for educators and curricula for students. CharacterStrong focuses on 3 main outcomes: increasing a sense of belonging for all students, improving skills that support student well-being, and deepening student engagement in their academics, in their school, and in their community.  Our Social Emotional Learning Team is excited to introduce this program to our students during the 2022-2023 school year. CharacterStrong is a Tier 1 Instructional SEL resource that PreK-8th grade classroom teachers will implement each week. 

What does it look like at the Elementary School?

HBR Elementary will be following PurposeFull People, CharacterStrong’s curriculum dedicated to PreK-5th grade. PurposeFull People has three main goals for students: Be Kind, Be Strong, and Be Well. Explicit instruction with a strong focus on conflict resolution, emotional regulation, and executive functioning skills will help our young Royals develop the skills they need to be their best selves. Friendship, leadership, organization, goal setting, and learning to balance the various emotions we experience each day are just some of the topics our students and staff will explore this year!

Emma B in 3rd grade: The lesson included a discussion about what kinds of words we want to hear in our school which led to the children coming up with their own.
Mrs. Wassmann facilitating a PurposefulPeople lesson in 2nd grade focusing on powerful/kind/respectful phrases.

What does it look like at the Middle School?

HBR Middle School is implementing the CharacterStrong curriculum which focuses on engagement, belonging, and student well-being.  This curricular resource was created to support school communities as they engage in the work of preparing young people to thrive in the 21st century. The research supports the effectiveness of this content to increase students’ academic success and college & career readiness. The lessons focus on developing skills and mindsets around building positive habits, understanding our emotions, improving teamwork, and increasing empathy.

One of the key parts of nearly every lesson is the “CharacterDare” for Middle School students. These are invitations near the end of most lessons to put the content that they are learning into action in the real world. If you ever want to play an active role in the CharacterStrong curricula, simply ask your student about the most recent CharacterDare challenge. Maybe they’ll invite you to try one yourself!

Ms. Lee teaching her group of students on the first day of Character Strong implementation. 
Mr. Sidman’s group won the CharacterStrong team flag contest–check out those great shirts!

How are our High School students learning these skills?

While the weekly lessons are being fully implemented in our PreK-8th grades, HBRHS will be piloting the CharacterStrong curricular resource this year.

HBR District 429 is committed to supporting our students’ social and emotional and executive function development.  Our hope is that CharacterStrong proves to be a helpful resource for our students.