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Elementary schools support social-emotional learning with “Character Strong” program

Students learn about Empathy at McKinley Elementary School(10/14/21) A new Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program, “Character Strong,” a Purposeful People toolkit, was added to the elementary school lessons this school year. The new program encourages students to build relationships and skills to help them achieve in and out of the classroom. It will also help reintegrate students to full-time, in-person school.

Elementary schools will focus on themes such as respect, empathy, gratitude, kindness, honesty, courage, cooperation, perseverance and responsibility each month - integrated in each school community through short lessons, morning announcements and/or recognition opportunities to help foster emotional maturity and develop character traits.

Michael Koenig, school principal at McKinley Elementary School - recently named a National Blue Ribbon School of Distinction, explained, “While planning for this school year, we worked to connect the themes to activities or seasons. Our school will focus on gratitude in the month of November - taking Thanksgiving into account, and we will highlight perseverance in April when we are taking (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) MCA tests.”

Character Strong is provided for this year by one-time federal funding provided to Anoka-Hennepin Schools to assist students' development in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are already seeing and hearing students having conversations and using specific language when working through situations and problem solving,” explained Mary Kling, Assistant Principal of Compass Programs, Student Conduct and Discipline. “Students are experiencing relationships in a different, thoughtful way and it’s encouraging to hear the stories of kindness coming from our schools that are utilizing the program.”

CharacterStrong also involves parents, and offers challenges and activities for students to cultivate each character trait in the classroom, at home, and on the playground. It also offers staff training and challenges, and places a focus on teachers providing positive examples for students.

A total of 19 schools in Anoka-Hennepin are implementing the program this school year, with the remaining schools operating other SEL programming support for students. Morris Bye, Ramsey and University Avenue Elementary Schools are utilizing the SEL program, “Leader In Me,” while Brookside, Hamilton, Hoover and Jefferson Elementary Schools are continuing their SEL focus with “Morning Meetings” within the responsive classroom structure and will consider adding one of the programs beginning in the 2022-23 school year. 

Visit the Character Strong website for additional information or to request a sample lesson.
View photos to see what Character Strong looks like at McKinley Elementary School.