SUMMARY – With the support of the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Meadows Institute collaborated with Mental Health America of Greater Houston to train Dickinson ISD early childhood educators on brain science and using a common language for discussing mental wellness, and to work with administrators on ensuring the financial sustainability of the district’s mental health programs.
As part of a multi-component program overseen by MHA Greater Houston, the Meadows Institute supported the mental health efforts of Dickinson ISD through two separate initiatives.
First, the Meadows Institute provided training on social and emotional learning (SEL) to teachers, caregivers, and family members to develop a common language and shared approach for addressing SEL. The Meadows Institute project team led six, four-hour training sessions for early childhood educators, local childcare and daycare staff, and parents with children ages five and under in Dickinson, Texas between October and December 2019. The sessions were based on the work of the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL), the SEL program CharacterStrong, brain science from the Alberta Brain Story Certification Course, and Restorative Practices. In the following year, the team organized coaching sessions aimed at reinforcing the key concepts from the 2019 SEL trainings.
Through the sessions I’ve become more aware how to react to these children when they are in their survival mode. I’m getting better at delaying consequences until they are ready to receive them. I’ve noticed now that when I do give consequences when they are upset, it only escalates the situation.
The second part of this work included identifying funding opportunities to ensure financial sustainability for school-linked mental health interventions, as sustainability is at the core of the Institute’s approach to implementing interventions. The Meadows Institute team helped Dickinson ISD leaders identify potential funding sources to maintain staffing and ongoing professional development for their SEL and Restorative Practices programs. After studying the district’s needs and available resources, the team developed a curated list of funding opportunities – using federal, state, local, and philanthropic sources – that matched the programmatic needs of Dickinson ISD. The district pursued nine viable funding opportunities, including one long-term strategy: developing a district-wide attendance improvement plan. By increasing its attendance, the district receives additional state funding and has committed to reinvesting these funds to sustain its emotional wellness programming.
Investing in early childhood educators and caregivers through SEL training is critical to improving their ability to provide the behavioral, social, and emotional supports young children need at pivotal ages. Through this work with Dickinson ISD, the Meadows Institute developed an SEL curriculum and identified funding sources for the district to sustain programs that address mental and behavioral health concerns and improve outcomes for students.