Introducing YSPP's Fifth Grade School Curriculum
Over the years, the state’s death and injury data have shown an emerging trend: younger children are facing new and increasing stressors and as they grow to middle school age, they are being exposed to greater pressures (from the media and from peers) and dangers (from school bullying, family and youth-on-youth conflict), and are participating in more dangerous behaviors (including earlier alcohol and drug use, self-mutilation/cutting, gun play, and games of risk).
In the past year, we’ve seen shocking headlines about several children as young as 10 years old dying by suicide in our country, as the result of bullying and harassment by peers. We’d like to provide greater support to youth before these risk factors interfere with their healthy development.
Thanks to a 2-year grant from an anonymous private funder, we developed our most innovative curriculum yet -- Riding the Waves.
Riding the Waves is developmentally appropriate for 5th grade students and taught by elementary school counselors. Lessons will address healthy emotional development, depression, and anxiety. This curriculum’s overarching goal is to build the emotional skills within children to prevent suicide at its earliest stages.
Elementary school counselors in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, who have a long-standing relationship with YSPP, tested out the lessons directly in their classrooms. YSPP staff observed how the students engaged in the content and activities and used the feedback to write the finalized version.
Concerning Statistics for 6th graders
Washington State's Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) provides substantiation of the need for early suicide prevention services. The HYS is a bi-annual assessment that asks students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 questions about safety and violence, physical activity and diet, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and related risk and protective factors. In the latest HYS report, the following responses from 6th graders statewide were strong indications that they are in need of resources to support healthy emotional development and mental wellness (9,068 valid responses were collected from 6th grade students across the state):
- 53.4% enjoyed being in school in the past year
- 29.7% reported being bullied in the past 30 days
- 13.8% reported being in at least one physical fight in the past 12 months.
- 15.8% had seriously thought about killing themselves
- 26.4% reported never trying to work out problems by talking about them
- Nearly 20% said “no” or “not sure” when asked if they have adults they can turn to for help
Skills Covered in Classroom Curriculum
The recent literature on healthy child development emphasizes the importance of coping and social skills like emotions management, problem solving, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, and school systems are starting to recognize this need.
Each of the 12 short (20-40 minute) lessons in Riding the Waves includes interactive discussions and skill-building activities:
- Introduction to Emotions
- Understanding Depression
- Belly Breathing & Using Imagination
- Positive Problem Solving
- Positive Self-Talk
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Talking about Feelings
- Helping a Friend: Asking Non-nosey questions
- Helping a Friend: Going to Adult
YSPP hired graphic designer Christine Castigliano to develop the amusing, kid-friendly graphics that grace the pages of Riding the Waves. She also designed a foldable wallet card that will remind students about the skills they learned.
Parent Education Component to Riding the Waves
Another exciting component to Riding the Waves is a parent education component. We developed half-page handouts that students will take home to share with parents or guardians. They not only summarize the content of that day’s lesson, but also encourage parents to talk about and practice the new skills with their children.
- teacher resources
- lesson plans
- student worksheets