Whitcomb, S. A. (2009). Strong Start: Impact of Direct Teaching of a Social Emotional Learning Curriculum and Infusion of Skills on Emotion Knowledge of First Grade Students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene.



Given the staggering prevalence of 12-22% of school children with mental health problems and the paucity of effective mental health services available, it is essential that professionals examine alternative methods for providing social and emotional support to children. Rather than continuing with a service delivery approach that is reactive, fragmented, and inefficient, professionals are called to consider a more preventive approach that ensures the health of all children. A public health model of intervention can provide a conceptual framework for mental health service delivery in its aim to serve an entire population and to provide multi-tiered support (universal, targeted, indicated) that increases in intensity based on the needs of individual persons.  Members of the Oregon Resiliency Project, a research effort at the University of Oregon, have spent the last several years developing one such set of SEL curricula, appropriate for children in grades pre-k-12, the Strong Kids programs, Strong Start: K-2, is a component of Strong Kids, developmentally applicable to kindergarten through second grade students. The purpose of this study was to implement a pilot or feasibility study that examined the impact of Strong Start on first grade student social-emotional knowledge skills, with a particular emphasis on emotion knowledge, social behavior and affect. Pretest data collection of Strong Start began in Fall 2007 in 4 classrooms in a suburban, northwestern school district. Implementation of the intervention occurred in Winter 2008 and posttest data were gathered in Spring 2008. Results indicated that Strong Start was implemented with integrity, and that significant increases in student knowledge about emotion situations and significant decreases in student internalizing behaviors were associated with exposure to the program. Limitations of this study as well as directions for future research are discussed.