Empathy, emotion management, life skills taught in Ephraim Elementary ‘Second Steps’ program

Empathy, emotion management, life skills taught in Ephraim Elementary ‘Second Steps’ program


By Linda Petersen

Staff writer

Sept. 28, 2017


EPHRAIM—At Ephraim Elementary, Principal Gannon Jones believes in being proactive: It’s better to teach students how to solve problems before they arise, he says, that to wait until a problem is at hand.

Jones also believes that giving kids a well-rounded education involves teaching them life skills as well as academics. It’s an approach that has led him to implement a program called Second Step in his school.

“We were looking for something to specifically address things like empathy, emotional management and learning skills,” said Jones, who found out about the program from other educators.

Developed by Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle that specializes in helping children develop social and emotional skills, Second Step helps students gain confidence, set goals, make better decisions, collaborate with others in work and play, and navigate the world more effectively.

This is the second year Jones and his faculty have used the program, and Ephraim Elementary is currently the only school in either Sanpete County school districts that uses Second Step.

“I think it’s a great program. I really like how it is specific for each grade level,” Jones said.

At Ephraim Elementary, Melinda Steck teaches each class age-appropriate lessons each week that include songs, games and daily activities.

The lessons are based on the five principles of Second Step: empathy (feeling or understanding what someone else is feeling); emotion management (the ability to monitor and regulate strong emotions and calm down when upset); social problem solving (the ability to successfully navigate through social problems and challenges); friendship building (an important protective factor against being bullied); and assertiveness training (another component of building positive relationships).

The program also teaches learning, classroom and homework skills.

Steck uses take-home materials to reinforce the concepts learned in the classroom. Throughout the week, teachers themselves use Second Step vocabulary and reinforce the concepts from the lesson. And the lessons given i each grade build on those from the previous year.

“Research has found that when you implement these concepts, when you give students ways to problem solve and calm down, they absorb it just like you’re teaching them an academic skill like math or reading,” Jones said.

The program also contains an anti-bullying unit, which teaches students to recognize, report and refuse bullying. But Jones says Ephraim Elementary does not have a significant bullying program.

“A high percentage of students feel like they are not being bullied,” Jones said.

He wants to make sure it stays that way.