How this district is improving emotional and physical mindfulness

Districts of Distinction update: This past honoree is continuing to innovate social-emotional learning and mindfulness
By: | March 6, 2020
DA originally recognized Hermosa Beach City School District for adopting a social-emotional learning curriculum that promoted student mindfulness. Now this district is expanding its SEL curriculum by developing a growth mindset philosophy as well as adopting assessments that identify personal and academic strengths for students. The "I Am Me" initiative teaches students not to judge a book by its cover and about the importance of getting to know people for who they really are.

A previous Districts of Distinction honoree continues to expand the TK-5 student mindfulness and social-emotional learning curriculum that DA recognized in 2016. The program recently developed a growth mindset philosophy and now uses assessments that identify personal and academic strengths for students.

“We noticed that we were focusing on student deficits and wanted to flip the script and focus more on students’ strengths,” says Kimberly Taylor, director of administrative services at Hermosa Beach City School District in California. “We believe that if you can connect to student strengths then that will increase school engagement and, in turn, impact chronic absenteeism.”

In 2017-18, Hermosa Beach added grades 6 through 8 to the MindUP SEL curriculum that incorporates breathing exercises and physical activities into class time for stress reduction, emotion regulation and attention improvement. A middle school advisory period was added the following year where teachers interact with students to promote growth mindset in the classroom, the belief that students and teachers can achieve success through dedication and hard work.

Related: Emotional and Physical Mindfulness

“Now our students are coming to us in middle school with their MindUP qualities of expressing gratitude, performing acts of kindness and being mindful overall, and we build upon that by promoting our growth mindset learning and strength-based philosophy,” says Taylor.

Meanwhile, the district continues to maintain high test scores and decrease an already low suspension rate.

Expanding the SEL curriculum

Every year, students now take the California Healthy Kids Survey, which quantifies social-emotional learning and connectedness. “Everybody is having difficulty measuring wellness progress, so we are adopting measurable pieces to see what impacts we’re making,” says Taylor.

Hermosa Beach is also in its third year of using Sandy Hook Promise for K-8. Sandy Hook Promise trains students and adults to know the signs of gun violence and to build inclusive cultures. “It’s about stopping and saying ‘Hello’ and building relationships,” says Taylor. “We felt confident that Sandy Hook Promise met our values of empowering our students to achieve and thrive as well as building a healthy environment.”

Districts interested in pursuing a similar SEL curriculum, promoting growth mindset in the classroom or using assessments that identify personal and academic strengths for students need to ensure the content fits the vision and mission of the district. “More is not always better,” says Taylor. Also, work with staff, connect with parents and promote PD opportunities for teachers who create these positive experiences with students. “Make sure you are coming at it from every possible angle,” she adds, “so that everyone uses the same language to discuss the success of your initiative.”

To learn more about past honorees, please visit our Districts of Distinction page.