Momentous Institute

Collaborative Kindergarten Project

Momentous_1For 95 years, Momentous Institute, owned and operated by the Salesmanship Club, has pioneered best practices in children’s social emotional health. Through longitudinal research, the organization has proven that coupling therapeutic practices with education can help at-risk children and families overcome, persevere, and thrive.

Integrating social emotional development into the fabric of an educational curriculum helps prepare children to succeed in school and in life. It develops children who can self-regulate, communicate, and problem-solve. Social emotional health also translates to children who are empathetic, grateful, gritty, and optimistic – even in the midst of adversity.

Momentous_3The results are definitive: Seven years after leaving Momentous Institute, 99% of its alumni graduate high school on time. 86% of its alumni advance to higher education, while 87% of those college freshmen re-enroll for their sophomore year.

While its effects last through college and beyond, the Momentous Institute’s emphasis on social emotional health begins as early as 3 years old. Its brick-and-mortar Dallas laboratory school, founded in 1997, engages urban children from age 3 through fifth grade around a rigorous academic curriculum that integrates key social emotional learning concepts and experiences.  In addition, Momentous Institute’s Therapeutic Services work with 5,500 children and family members annually in North Texas.

It is through this school and therapy work that Momentous Institute saw the opportunity to expand to a larger population and begin replicating its success to help even more children and families. In addition to the professional development and clinical training it offers to school administrators, nonprofits, and civic organizations, Momentous Institute developed a social emotional health pre-kindergarten program that could be implemented in other local schools.

Momentous_2Through a partnership with the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and the Fort Worth Independent School District, the Collaborative Early Childhood Education Project began in four Fort Worth ISD partner schools in 2014. Today, The Miles Foundation joins this partnership, along with The Meadows Foundation, The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, The Amon G. Carter Foundation, and R4 Foundation, to help expand this programming to kindergarten classes in selected Fort Worth ISD classrooms.

Like the pre-k social emotional health curriculum, the kindergarten lessons will align with Texas kindergarten standards and address the five core competencies for social emotional health as outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): 1) self-awareness, 2) self-management, 3) social awareness, 4) relationship skills, and 5) responsible decision making.

A distinguishing characteristic of Momentous Institute’s curriculum, which will be present in this new kindergarten programming, as well, is its trauma-informed approach to social emotional health development. This type of learning is specifically designed to counteract the effects of poverty and toxic stress on child success.

Momentous Institute’s four levels of social emotional development include:

  • Level 1: Self Regulation (Brain | Breath | Feelings | Impulse Control)
  • Level 2: Awareness of Self (Brain-Body | Gratitude | Optimism | Grit)
  • Level 3: Understanding Others (Perspective Taking | Empathy)
  • Level 4: Integrated Influencer (Acts of Kindness | Resilience | Change Agent)

While “resilience”, “impulse control,” and “perspective taking” may seem like ambitious expectations for a kindergartener, all of these characteristics can be observed through just one of Momentous Institute’s simple, age-appropriate lessons.

“The Friend Patrol,” for example, helps kindergarteners solve problems when they have a disagreement with a peer. Adorned with special necklaces, and equipped with cards that suggest alternatives to a fight (e.g., walk away, get a teacher to help, sit down and talk together, etc.), students assigned to the Friend Patrol are empowered to use their social emotional skills to help prevent or solve interpersonal conflict.

The following story exemplifies this lesson’s impact:

As four kindergarteners opened their supply caddies at school one day, there was an immediate disagreement about who was the owner of a specific pair of scissors.  The teacher noticed the escalating conversation, and began walking towards the back table to address the conflict. But before she could get there, one of the students from the table stood up and said, “Wait!  I’m part of the Friend Patrol! I can help!”

Whether learning to address conflicts between others, or simply settle their own internal emotions, the Momentous Institute’s innovative social emotional curriculum is helping students to thrive both inside and outside of the classroom.

“It has been a great forward-thinking partnership with the funding community. We aren’t building the solution in a year. We’re taking a thoughtful approach to help inform next steps so that we can effectively scale our impact.” - Michelle Kinder, Executive Director, Momentous Institute