Three Programs Win Competition Prizes for Innovation in Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

    • June 15, 2012

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is pleased to announce three “special-focus” prize winners, awarded as part of Ashoka Changemakers’ Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools to Teach What Matters competition. The global, open-source idea competition challenged teachers, principals, parents, students and other innovators to share solutions that integrate the teaching of empathy in schools.

More than 625 entries on helping children master empathy were submitted during the competition period by innovators from around the world. Ashoka announced 14 winners who received a total of more than $110,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. As a competition sponsor, RWJF awarded a total of $30,000 in prizes specifically for innovative efforts to incorporate social and emotional learning as a key component of what schools teach. Social and emotional learning is defined as a process that teaches students to recognize and manage their emotions, develop care and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations.

The following organizations each will receive $10,000 from RWJF for their U.S.-based programs to incorporate social and emotional learning in pre-K through high school classrooms or across school districts:

  • The Compassionate Campus program, implemented at the Journey School in Orange County, Calif., fosters strong mentor relationships between older and younger students to help cultivate empathy and build skills to overcome challenges.
  • Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility (New York, N.Y.) supports schools in implementing the Holistic Discipline model, a systemic approach to school discipline that promotes students’ social and emotional learning.
  • Training Teachers to Activate Empathy, a program presented by the Center for Inspired Teaching (Washington, DC), transforms teachers from teaching kids what to think to teaching them how to think. At a charter school founded by the Center, rules focus on the community over the individual student, and disciplinary practices draw on principles of restorative justice


“Education and health are integrally connected. We know that kids who struggle with social, behavioral and emotional issues have more trouble learning, succeeding in school, forming healthy relationships and avoiding health risks that undermine their well-being,” said Jane Isaacs Lowe, Ph.D., team director for RWJF’s Vulnerable Populations Portfolio. “We are pleased to award prizes to these shining examples of school-based programs that, through strengthening social and emotional skills, are improving children’s ability to learn and lead healthy lives.”

Social and emotional learning involves the development of skills such as coping with difficult situations, fostering positive relationships, building resilience and avoiding risky or disruptive behaviors. Studies have found that students participating in social and emotional learning programs demonstrate significant gains in education outcomes such as grades, test scores and attendance.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

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