Environments that Educate the Heart


Wherever children gather (classrooms, libraries, community centres, neighbourhood houses, playing fields) are places and spaces that have the potential to foster Heart-Mind Well-being.

Social science research tells us that we CAN strengthen Heart-Mind well-being in three ways;

1.  Create caring environments and relationships[1] so that children and youth feel loved, supported, and nurtured.

2.  Provide them with opportunities[2] and specific skills that will foster their social and emotional competence, happiness, and well-being.

3.  Make sure adults take the time to nurture their own[3] social and emotional competence and well-being

Consider where you have an influence to enhance well-being. Use the following checklist to determine what untapped potential exists to bolster relationships, environments and skill building opportunities.

Focus on the Adults

  • Do you make it a priority to ensure that the adults (staff, volunteers and parents) feel supported and valued?

  • Are adults vigilant about modeling positive interactions?

  • What individual activities are used to manage stress and promote well-being?

Build Skills through Activity

  • How often is true creative play incorporated into routines?

  • Are opportunities available for children to “pitch in” and help contribute to a sense of community?

  • Are challenges and conflicts tackled with a problem solving approach that is predictable, known and able to be child led?

Empower Children & Youth

  • In what ways are children welcomed individually into the space?

  • How often are children given choices to be able to design their own experiences?

  • How often are children encouraged to take (safe) risks?

  • Is it acceptable for adults and children to say, “I don’t know?” and do you use this as a springboard to learn together, side-by-side?

  • Are children able to express themselves in multiple ways? Verbally, written and through art?

  • Do you display pictures of children working and playing together and do you showcase things that children create?

In a study of grade 4 students, adult support perceived at school, home and in the neighbourhood (in that order) emerged as strong predictors of emotional well-being. These relationships were a stronger predictor than socioeconomic status in this study.

A meta-analysis, done by Loyola University and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the largest, most scientifically rigorous review of research ever done on interventions that promote the social and emotional development of students between the ages of 5 and 18. The results from the school-based study are based on 207 studies of programs involving 288,000 students from rural, suburban and urban areas.

In this study, researchers used statistical techniques to summarize the findings across all the studies and found a broad range of benefits for students. 

•23% improvement in social and emotional skills such as self-awareness and self-management

•9% improvement in attitudes about self, others, and school

•9% improvement in prosocial school and classroom behavior

•9% decrease in classroom misbehavior and aggression

•10% decrease in emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression

•11 % improvement in academic performance

Researchers in the field of human development and psychology emphasize the importance of a teacher's social and emotional competence and well-being as a foundational element to creating a classroom that supports prosocial behaviour and learning. 


Possible source links:

  1. anxiety contagion study

  2. info graphic anethicaisland: 27 ways to greet your students. & 10x20 resource

  3. ?modeling

  4. Michael unger - safe risks build reslience

  5. Creative play concept

  6. problem solving approaches preschool, middle school, high school
  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.