IES Grant to Expand Sown To Grow’s Work Empowering Proactive Social-Emotional Support in Schools

Will Bielinski
June 15, 2022
Sown To Grow's student check-in & reflection process, and the data it produces.

Sown To Grow is receiving a $1 Million grant to fund enhancements and expansions of our weekly emotional check-in, reflection, and feedback process, geared to the needs of secondary school students.

Our unique approach to social-emotional learning anchors on a weekly check-in where students are invited to share their feelings or a part of their lives with their teacher. The practice allows students to reflect on their own well-being and apply SEL skills in a way that is relevant to their lives, while adults in the school provide feedback and support for their emotional needs and growth. The program allows schools to deepen relationships with all students (Tier 1) and proactively identify students who are struggling for Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions if necessary.

The IES Grant (view award details here) will support expansion of our advance technology that aids that identification and response process for students who are struggling. We use machine learning technology to “read” student reflections for words and phrases that indicate they may need a more immediate intervention. Teachers, counselors, and school leaders receive an email alert when a concerning reflection is submitted so that they can evaluate it and respond with the appropriate support. The designated educators also have access to a dashboard of insights from student check-ins, where they can see which students have indicated positive feelings, as well as those who have expressed negative emotions and may need additional attention. In-platform feedback suggestions help help educators respond appropriately to student reflections, if they need support. This process helps adults in schools deepen connection to their students and respond to their individual needs.

“Implementing Sown To Grow has allowed us to challenge our bias and it serves us in our equity initiative to be looking at who is in need. Not just who we think is in need, but who is actually in need.”
–Barbara McClung, Director of Behavioral Health, Oakland Unified School District (CA)

With the IES grant, we will continue to optimize the algorithm that categorizes student reflections, improve the user interface to empower educators with more insight into the themes and severity of student reflections, and enhance the responsive feedback suggestions for teachers in the reflection portal. Expansions will also be made to our built-in, CASEL-aligned SEL curriculum to support grade-level differentiation across core SEL competencies, specifically for secondary students where fewer developmentally appropriate, comprehensive SEL solutions exist.

Our research partner, LeanLab Education, will conduct an efficacy study to determine whether the product shows promise in improving student outcomes in social emotional learning. This work will contribute to the essential growing body of work on supporting student emotional well-being in schools. You can view past LeanLab Research with Sown To Grow here.

The grant is an exciting opportunity to advance our mission to empower student voice in proactive social-emotional support. We believe that when students are feeling at their best, they can learn at their best.