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$100 Million Gift to Expand Social-Emotional Learning Program Nationwide

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A $100 million gift announced Tuesday will allow the Sanford Harmony social-emotional learning program to make its curriculum and teacher training available for free to students in pre-k through 6th grade schools nationwide.

The gift, from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, will allow the private National University to expand the program, which is already active in many schools. Sanford Harmony uses lessons and classroom strategies in five focus areas: diversity and inclusion; empathy and critical thinking; communication; problem-solving; and peer relationships.

"As announced today, the gift allows for the program, which is currently reaching more than 1.5 million students, to impact up to 30 million students nationally and around the world, ensuring access to research-based strategies that are demonstrated to increase academic achievement and empathy and decrease stereotyping, bullying and aggression," National University System said in a news release.

National University has hosted Sanford Harmony and two other programs developed by Sanford since 2014. The gift, Sanford's largest to the university, will fund research fellowships, the development of "new, innovative approaches such as online learning and game-based apps," and the creation of Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Portuguese versions of the program, which is already available in Spanish. The program will also work to align itself with the strategies of after-school programs and develop tools for parents to help support the social-emotional learning strategies students use at school.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning reviewed Sanford Harmony as part of its SEL programming guide. You can read its review of the program and how it fits into the landscape of social-emotional learning offerings here.

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