Sanford Harmony

Elementary SELect Program

Program Description

Sanford Harmony is a skills promotion program that uses free-standing lessons to promote social and emotional learning for students in PreK through sixth grade. Lessons are combined as grade bands for PreK and K, first and second grade, and fifth and sixth grade. Grades three and four have lessons for those specific grades and are not combined as a grade band. Each grade/grade band includes approximately 20 lessons.

The program consists of five units or focus themes: diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and peer relationships. These focus themes are presented in ways that are differentiated for each grade/grade band to account for students’ developmental levels. In lower elementary, lessons include storybooks focus on core themes. Games are provided for upper elementary levels.

Sanford Harmony also integrates two teaching practices throughout the curriculum: “Meet Up” and “Buddy Up”. The everyday practices of Meet Up and Buddy Up are core strategies for fostering community within the program. During Meet Up, students and teachers meet in a circle to greet one another, share ideas and experiences, monitor classroom goals, solve problems, and participate in team building activities using Harmony Quick Connection Cards. Buddy Up is a peer buddy system designed to bring together diverse students who otherwise might not interact with one another. During Buddy Up, students engage in discussions or activities provided in the Harmony Quick Connection Cards.

Implementation Support

The training model for Sanford Harmony is flexible. In-person training can be provided on or off-site and takes 2.5 to 3 hours to complete. Online training is also available as self-paced group or individual training sessions with a virtual instructor. A train-the-trainer model is also offered. All trainings are experiential with opportunities for participants to practice the strategies they are learning and reflect on what those strategies might look like in their unique contexts.

An “Implementation and Training Roadmap” is also provided which offers recommended steps for sustainability, including creating a leadership team, establishing goals and expectations for the program, and recognizing teacher-leaders. For additional support, online Ambassadors provide coaching and help organize webinars based on district feedback. Sanford Harmony also provides implementation support through quarterly newsletters that contain surveys, teaching tips, and strategies. In addition, Sanford Harmony works collaboratively with districts to support the creation of assessment and implementation tools, such as tools to measure student behavior and principal walk-through rubrics.

Evidence of Effectiveness

Results from a quasi-experimental study conducted in 2010-2012 support the effectiveness of Sanford Harmony for elementary students. The evaluation included 627 fifth grade students from 29 classes in 6 schools that were majority middle class and located in a large metropolitan area in the Southwest United States (White = 55%, Multiracial = 18%). The evaluation found that the students who participated in the program demonstrated fewer aggressive behaviors and had a higher overall mean grade (calculated by averaging report card grades on language, writing, math, science, and social studies) compared to students in the comparison group. It also found that students who participated in the program reported greater feelings of classroom identification and school liking. Outcomes were reported 26 weeks after baseline while controlling for outcome pretest.


Miller, C. F., Kochel, K. P., Wheeler, L. A., Updegraff, K. A., Fabes, R. A., Martin, C. L., & Hanish, L. D. (2017). The efficacy of a relationship building intervention in 5th grade. Journal of School Psychology, 61, 75-88.