With support from the Iowa Women’s Foundation’s funds for the past two years St. Mark’s approach and implementation of social emotionally programming has grown tremendously. St. Mark has had the opportunity to share our model at the state level and has been recently recognized as a state-wide award-winning program in the areas of collaboration, literacy improvement, and all around programming.
Social emotional learning in woven through all things done at St. Mark and starts with the leadership culture and staff training based in composure, trauma informed practices, and brain science that creates safe learning environments, genuine connections, and ultimately results in trusting and impactful relationships with students. St. Mark builds upon this foundation of safety, connection, and trust with curriculum that provide tangible tools for students to regulate emotions and resolve conflict, such as the Safe Spot tool; enrichment experiences that promote wellness and mindfulness, like yoga “naps”, and family engagement activities that gives toolkits for mothers and families to sustain student’s growth in their home and in life overall.
One project that took place this past school year is We Care Bags. The older St. Mark students put together bags for pre-K students to take their very own Safe Spot kit home which is made up of items that help identify and regulate big emotions. Items included feeling faces, fidget toys, coloring books, play-doh, lotion also known as “cranky cream”, a handwritten note from the student gifting the kit, instructional sheets for families to learn the stages of regulations and how to set up the Safe Spot at home. The St. Mark students then went into the pre-K classes to hand out the bags, talk about safe spots, and then teach the kids the cranky cream song, which was a huge hit; “Bye bye crankies, bye bye crankies, bye bye crankies, it’s time to say goodbye.” Then the older kids invited the pre-k kids to come to St. Mark next year when they’re in Kindergarten.
St. Mark also implements practices to ensure we’re measuring outcomes to show not only how much were doing but that students are better off because of what we do. Most recent data shows that 94% of girls improved or maintained these skills, an 11% increase from the previous year. One mom also shared in a survey her experience with St. Mark this past school year, “I love the balance of having fun and learning. As a single mother I don’t know how I would survive without St Marks. I love that you teach the kids to be respectful to others and especially to themselves.”
St. Mark Youth Enrichment is a non-profit organization that offers quality, out of school learning programs before/after school and in the summer serving 550 at-risk, elementary students, in Dubuque and Western Dubuque communities. The mission of St. Mark is to provide innovative programs and services that cultivate the educational and social-emotional growth of youth and families. To learn more about St. Mark visit our website: https://stmarkyouthenrichment.org/