Roman Parrett, a Lake­wood Elementary School first-grader, stood in front of his classmates Tuesday and went down a list of “harmony goals,” goals that detail how students should treat each other.

As Roman read off each item from the list, students gave a thumbs up, thumbs down or a sideways thumb which gauge their thoughts on how the class was accomplishing goals. Roman called on various students to explain their gestures.

“I think some of us need to work on it,” one student said about the goal “always be patient.”

“I really need to work on that a lot. I’m honest. I need to work on that,” another student said about the goal. “Be kind and show respect.”

Every day from about 8:30 to 8:50 a.m., every student in Lakewood Ele­men­tary School in Steph­ens­burg participates in en­han­cing their social emo­tional skills. The instruc­tional activity is based on the Sanford Harmony program, which is geared for preschoolers through sixth-grade students to help them with their social emotional needs. The program is used in more than 18,000 schools across the nation, according to the program’s website. The program was developed by professors at Arizona State University.

Students later shared “good news” and “bad news” about themselves and took turns telling their classmates what animal they wanted to be while passing around a “talking stick.” The activity ended with the students teaming up with another student or two – called buddies – and practicing handshakes.

Lakewood Elementary School Principal Shelee Clark said the program began school-wide this year. Clark said the school decided to pursue the program after wanting to help students with more than just academics.

“We feel like we needed something to help the students with their social emotional learning needs,” she said.

Lakewood Elementary School guidance counselor Shelly Kerr said the program helps students break out of their social group and interact with others.

“We want our kids who struggle academically to interact and engage with those kids who thrive academically,” she said. “We just want to mix and let them get to know each other because that’s how the real world is.”

Kerr said beginning next month, students will learn lessons on topics such as diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking and communication.

Clark said the program is enjoyed by both students and teachers.

“When I walk by the rooms and see it in the morning, it’s just kind of cool to see them handshaking and talking to each other,” she said.

Trey Crumbie can be reached at 270-505-1747 or

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