Erikson selected for second Investing in Innovation (i3) grant

Erikson Institute was selected as one of the 26 highest-rated applications out of 434 nationwide submissions for the U.S. Department of Education 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition.

Erikson is the only Illinois organization among the group, which includes representatives of 14 states and the District of Columbia.

The $2.5 million i3 grant will fund a four-year project to help 3,000 Chicago Public Schools students in kindergarten through second grade manage the toxic stress often associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, and focus on learning.

Social-emotional learning

The proposal is the highest-ranked in the country involving social-emotional learning, and was one of 21 selected from 395 entries in the highly competitive “development” grant category.

[img_caption src=”×1501.jpg” link=”” align=”right” caption=”Geoffrey Nagle” alt=”photo of Nagle”]“This is an invaluable project because social-emotional learning in children is just as important as academic learning,” says Geoffrey Nagle, president and CEO of Erikson. “At Erikson, we concentrate on the development of the whole child, and this project will help ensure that disadvantaged children have the tools they need to focus and succeed in school.”

The 26 i3 grantees will receive $129 million in total grants aimed at developing innovative approaches to improving student achievement and replicating effective strategies across the country. Selected proposals must raise partial matching funds by December 10 to become official grantees.

Once funded, this will be Erikson’s second i3 grant in the four years the federal program has been in existence. In 2010, Erikson received an i3 grant to expand the Early Math Collaborative, a nationally recognized initiative to improve math instruction for young children in Chicago and around the country.

About the project

“Mindfulness and Other Replenishment Practices to Improve Young Children’s Stress Levels, Self-Regulation, and Productive Engagement in School” will serve approximately 3,000 students in Chicago Public Schools, helping them feel calm, focused, and invigorated to learn. The project will be directed by Erikson professor Amanda Moreno.

[img_caption src=”” link=”” align=”right” caption=”Amanda Moreno” alt=”photo of Moreno”]“We can’t expect to close the achievement gap by only addressing what children learn and not how they learn,” Moreno says. “If we want children to be attentive, engage in the classroom community, and absorb academic material, their social-emotional well-being needs to be nurtured inside the school building, every single day.”

Recent research in the area of toxic stress in young children has shown that common, moderately stressful circumstances associated with socioeconomic disadvantage have deep, biological consequences for children that can manifest after only a few years, such as smaller brain size. Mindfulness practices, such as guided breathing and relaxing the entire body, one part at a time, have been shown to mitigate these negative effects.

Erikson’s project will be the first to examine whether these exercises have benefits extending into academic success for children in early grades.

Erikson will partner with Luster Learning Institute, designers of the Calm ClassroomTM program, whose previous work has demonstrated benefits for teachers as well, as a classroom of better-regulated children means less time spent on behavior management.

The University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall will conduct an independent evaluation study to provide an objective report on the program’s effectiveness. Data will be collected on children’s physiologic stress, self-regulation skills, and academic performance.