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© 2019 Duval County Public Schools

Keeping the classroom harmonious with Sanford Harmony


Students in Emma Dubinsky's kindergarten class sharing kind words with one another.

May 23, 2019 - Before math, before language arts and before science, students in Emma Dubinsky's kindergarten class get their day started by sharing words of encouragement with each other. It just takes five minutes, but several students say it makes a big difference in their day.


“Addison told me to keep working hard, and it made me smile so big,” one student said.

Exchanging and sharing kind words with the class is just one way social-emotional learning is incorporated in the classroom at Mandarin Oaks Elementary. This is part of part of a program used throughout schools in Team Duval called Sanford Harmony.


Katrina Taylor, the Director of School and Behavioral Health, explains social-emotional learning takes lessons beyond academics.


“Social-emotional learning is the process through which children learn to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” said Taylor.

Teachers all over the county who participate in Sanford Harmony creatively mix social-emotional learning into their daily routine with a quick session called a “Meet Up.”


During "meet up" sessions, students have the opportunity to participate in activities like freeze dance parties, conversation cards and share circles. These activities require intense listening, encourage students to ask new questions and help them communicate their feelings.


Alicia Pitts’s third-grade class also have "meet ups." At one "meet up," students shared how they felt when their parents wrote them a letter for the FSA. One student, Kendall, told the class what her mom wrote that “made her heart happy.”


“She wanted me to be as strong mentally as I am physically for the FSA,” said Kendall.

The students then did Friday shout-outs in which they wrote something positive about a classmate on a sticky note and read it to the rest of the class.


According to Mandarin Oaks Elementary Principal, Leigh Butterfield, this is an example of how students are learning to be kind to each other while building their vocabulary and public speaking skills.


She said she couldn’t be prouder of the positive changes she has seen take place at her school because of the social-emotional learning program.


“Sanford Harmony has taken our positive school culture to the next level,” said Butterfield. “The students are able to express themselves, have conversations with students who they wouldn't normally talk to, and build those positive peer relationships.”