West Ada Schools use Pixar characters for social-emotional learning

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 12:38:01-05

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Learning how to process situations and emotions has become critical during the pandemic, and two programs implemented by the West Ada School District aim to help with a Pixar spin.

Zones of Regulation and Toolbox Tools for Learning were implemented district-wide about one year ago, Cecil B. Andrus Elementary Counselor Natalie Dalos said. The decision came after counselors started to push more social-emotional teaching in schools six years ago, she said.

Developed by occupational therapist Leah M. Kuypers, the “Zones of Regulation” curriculum teaches children emotional control and self-regulation through several techniques.

The zones, and their meanings, are:

  • Blue: sad, sick, tired, bored or moving slowly
  • Green: joy, calm, feeling okay, focused and ready to learn
  • Yellow: anxious, frustrated, worried, silly and not entirely in control
  • Red: angry, mean, terrified and out of control

To better with students, WASD counselors linked the color-coded zones to characters from the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out.

Related: Some legislators fighting plan to train teachers in social emotional learning

“We watch clips of the movie to teach recognizing anger, recognizing sadness so that students are able to identify feelings and they really enjoy that, sometimes they’ll say my heads on fire for anger,” Siena Elementary School Counselor Quyann Kerby said.

Courtesy: Pleasant View Elementary School

One way WASD counselors have further helped students understand how to process their zone is through the “Toolbox Tools for Learning,” Dalos said. Inside the toolbox are 12 tools, including taking deep breaths, taking a time out, or using their words to express their emotions, according to the WASD website.

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“The main tool the kids really the breathing tool. It is like a measuring tape. You show them how you pull out the measuring tape and bring it back in, and then they do that with their breathing,” Dalos said. “If you’re in the blue zone and you’re feeling sad, you can just take a moment to yourself and take that deep breath.”

Kerby said that Siena Elementary implemented the zones curriculum in Fall 2020 following COVID-19 school closures. She believes social-emotional learning practices like the zones are critically important for students during the pandemic.

“We’ve experienced students with higher rates of anxiety, higher rates of school refusal, and just all around us, there is worry,” Kerby said. “I think it’s important for (students) to be able to understand their feelings, express their feelings, and have those tools to help calm themselves in a healthy way.”