Social Emotional Learning

Program & Curriculum

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been a hallmark of an Island School education since the school’s founding in 1977. In 2020 we added a new tool called The Zones of Regulation, created by Leah M. Kuypers, MA, Ed. OTR/L. This school-wide curriculum is designed to help students gain skills in self-regulation. Our SEL Coordinator guides children in identifying the color-coded zone that they are in and supports them in implementing strategies to change or maintain that zone.

In addition to the Zones, we hold shared definitions of eight essential traits identified by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD in The Compass Advantage. At each grade level teachers use developmentally appropriate curriculum to explore each one of these qualities with the children, one per month or so. Of course, we approach each of these topics whenever the need arises, regardless of the order below; a teachable moment is the best time to introduce or reiterate a needed lesson.

This set of definitions is meant to help all of our community members – teachers, parents, and students – have a shared vocabulary and a shared understanding of the essential traits we want all students to develop.  We believe that with these tools and this heightened awareness, we will be more effective in helping our students prepare for a successful future.


Community is the topic by which we help students see themselves as part of a larger group.  Teachers use this term when we are building communities within our classrooms and considering the school as a whole.  We encourage our students to get along well with each other and to develop a sense of their place in the community.  Essential elements of our community are inclusion (no closing games); safety (we are a safe place, physically and emotionally); and the celebration of individual differences.  These are all part of learning “The Island School Way.”


Self–awareness involves knowing oneself as an individual.  Students will recognize and accept that they have their own set of strengths (“Razzle Dazzles”) and challenges (“Razzle Frazzles”).  Students will also understand that others have their own strengths and challenges (“different needs, different speeds”). No one is perfect. Developing greater self-awareness helps students recognize that their words and actions affect others.


Resilience means showing perseverance, initiative, self-confidence, stamina, persistence and the fortitude to work through challenges.  We tell students: “You are stronger than you know.”  We teach them to “win graciously and lose gracefully.”  Children need to live through disappointment, failure and frustration in order to learn resilience.  As adults, we need to allow children to struggle; this leads them to discover that they can learn from their mistakes and carry on.


Integrity is taking responsibility for one’s actions and following one’s own moral compass. We seek to teach students to act with honesty, fairness, respect and mindfulness, and we encourage students to “do the right thing, even when no one is looking.” We explicitly teach fair play.  In the older grades, we help students to develop the courage to act when action is necessary and to recognize that one’s actions build one’s reputation.


Empathy is the foundation for all of the social and emotional traits, and we begin teaching it on the first day of school.  Empathy is recognizing and experiencing the feelings and emotions of others.  It means looking outside oneself, walking in another’s shoes and seeing situations from someone else’s perspective.


Curiosity means asking meaningful questions, exploring what you don’t understand, loving learning and finding interest in new subjects.  It is a part of all that we do here at The Island School.  Wonder comes naturally to children, and at The Island School we “nurture their innate curiosity.”


Resourcefulness involves identifying what tools you have and what tools you need to achieve your goals.  It’s about being open to taking a different path, developing a new line of questioning, being flexible in your approach and making the best of any situation.  Resourcefulness involves negotiation, adaptability, and figuring out what to do when one is “bored.”  Children demonstrate resourcefulness when they recognize the positive qualities and skill sets of others as opportunities for mutual growth.


Creativity is the gift of working with imagination and originality. At The Island School we keep a broad view of creativity. Teachers facilitate children following their interests and passions. We embolden them to pursue ideas without worrying about the outcome, and we inspire them to take risks while encouraging them to be willing to mess up.  Failure is necessary! Teachers maintain enough unstructured and open-ended time for students to “get in the groove” of creativity. We recognize that appreciating beauty is part of the creative process.