Better Together: The Power of Partnerships to bring SEL to early childhood students
About the school
Fremont Elementary School in Mundelein, Illinois, is one of four schools in the Fremont School District 79. Fremont Elementary School serves students in kindergarten through second grade. All students in the school have iPads for use during the school day and to bring home.
Moshi is an Apple Education Partner and unique in its category as an early childhood social and emotional learning program. Moshi teaches kids mindfulness, SEL skills, and cognitive skills through storytelling and games. Moshi offers free access to all educators to lead SEL in their classrooms. In addition to this, the Moshi app is available as a monthly and yearly subscription.
Getting started with Moshi
In February 2021, Fremont Elementary K–2 health instructor Lori Northup wrote to Allison Henry, Head of Schools at Moshi, saying that she was “looking for an app that students can have on their devices to help them learn how to self-regulate.”
Lori and Principal Stefan Ladenburger had noticed that since the pandemic, students were lacking self-control, coping skills, and self-regulation. During remote learning, students were on screens most of the day at home. Now that the students were back in person, Lori and Stefan recognized the need for tools to help students self-regulate, since screen time decreased and engagement in social situations increased. They were looking for strategies to help kids learn how to calm themselves down and recenter so they would be ready to learn. For example, after coming in from recess, sometimes they were too excited, sometimes they were too tired. Lori and Stefan wanted to teach kids to listen to their bodies and to reflect: “How do I feel? What do I do with my feelings? Am I ready to learn?”
Ideally, the solution would be an app that could go onto all student iPads and would not be visually dependent on screen time. After doing a thorough search of kids apps, Lori could not find one that addressed social and emotional learning for the early childhood (K–2) grades. Then, they found Moshi.
Getting Moshi into the hands of students
Moshi agreed to partner with Fremont Elementary to bring Moshi to every student in the school via their iPad as a pilot project. This was the first time that Moshi would be used directly by students on their devices, paired with teachers leading whole group use of Moshi to practice regulation strategies such as breathing, body scanning, guided imagery, and other mindfulness techniques. Moshi’s task was deployment, but the fact that students were already using iPads and were part of the Apple ecosystem made this easier. Moshi used their existing app to create student accounts in the backend, and we took a few steps to make sure the accounts were prepared, including the onboarding, free access, and passwords easy for kids.
The development team at Moshi said that it was easy from their end to get Moshi ready to be deployed onto hundreds of iPads for the students because working within the Apple ecosystem is streamlined and efficient—from app developer to end user. They were confident that following the App Store Guidelines and Apple review process meant that Moshi would work out of the box on the school iPads.
The IT team at Fremont used Jamf to deploy the Moshi app to student iPads, and it was a very straightforward process. The only challenge was setting up each individual student account, because for children ages five to eight, support is needed. The portability of iPads allows kids to use Moshi in all classrooms and in the home. Kids can maneuver around the app independently, so beyond the initial set-up and introduction there is no extra burden on the teacher. Lori comments, “The Moshi app is so user friendly and iPads are user friendly, making this an all-star early childhood solution.”
What the data says
Hearing that Lori could not find a suitable app for her students was not a complete surprise to the research team at Moshi. In 2021, they had completed a systematic review of previous research in education (Reid et al., under review) and found that there were no developmentally appropriate mindfulness-based social and emotional learning apps for preK through grade 3. At that time, Moshi began research on how to fill that void.
After completing multiple studies in early childhood classrooms with Moshi being teacher led, the research team found that prior to using Moshi, only 38% of the teachers stated they were able to implement SEL daily, due to lack of knowledge of the topic (52%), confidence in teaching the topic (48%), and time (48%). However, after these same early childhood teachers had been given access to Moshi, 88% reported being able to implement Moshi as an SEL program daily. Teachers also stated that after just six weeks of using Moshi, they noticed not only themselves feeling calmer but also a calmer, more focused, and more self-regulated classroom.
Seeing the ease of use and effectiveness of Moshi when teacher led, we set out to examine the effects and usability of Moshi when the students had direct access. We were excited that Lori reached out and we got buy-in to partner with Fremont Elementary in our 1:1 research. We’ve been collecting usage data since the moment students were logged into Moshi and the preliminary results are outstanding! Implementation of Moshi with students began in health class and was then rolled out to individual use in their classrooms. Since October 2022, 65% of the students who have Moshi accounts have engaged in the product. This means that they interact with Moshi content during the day throughout the school week. More than 90% of the classes have an overall engagement rate of 65%.
After students used Moshi for a full semester, we surveyed 254 students from kindergarten to second grade on how Moshi made them feel as well as what they would enjoy listening to again. On average, students ranked music as their top content type, followed by sounds and then stories. This was consistent across grade levels and classes. One possible reason for this preference for music is that students were able to listen to Moshi Music on their headphones during independent work time. When asked to rate how Moshi makes them feel on a Likert scale Smileyometer, with 1 being “awful” and 5 being “fantastic,” students on average reported that listening to Moshi made them feel “really good” (M = 4.3).
Below is an example of a Smileyometer survey completed by a Fremont Elementary School student.
In January 2023, Lori noticed that “Students are on their way to independently assessing their feelings and now (after using Moshi) are able to incorporate the strategies they are learning in their daily lives.”
This gives us promise that Moshi and Apple can partner on larger-scale projects to bring Moshi to all early childhood students. And that through this work together, we set a strong foundation for kids to succeed socially and academically in school and beyond to best serve our communities.
Reid, M., Murphy, C., Temple, N., & Reeves, T. (in progress). Developmental, educational and curricular components of mindfulness-based social and emotional programs in schools: A scoping systematic review [Manuscript submitted for publication]