Treehouse Learning and Yale’s RULER Social-Emotional Curriculum

A colorful graphic of a mood meter, with a horizontal axis showing negative to positive level of pleasantness, and a vertical axis showing energy from low to high
A colorful graphic of a mood meter, with a horizontal axis showing negative to positive level of pleasantness, and a vertical axis showing energy from low to high

Treehouse Learning is offering Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER Social Emotional Curriculum to support developmental objectives for social-emotional learning at Treehouse Learning, which we offer as part of an entire menu to support whole-person well-being and life-long positive mental health (for both children and adults).  Treehouse Learning is also participating in a formal study with the University of Denver, called “Promoting School Readiness through Emotional Intelligence: An Efficacy Trial of Preschool RULER in Colorado, to support data collection around social-emotional learning on young children and educators in preschool settings.

The Impact and Limitations on Formal Research Studies

While RULER is simply one spoke on the “Big Circle” of our Whole-Person approach to early care and education, we made a decision to participate as an educational institution intentionally, and with much discussion! We recognize that University-connected research data is necessary to help drive public policy! Decisions made by those with power and influence in our education system are (ideally!) supported or confirmed by data. Regardless of the study results, we hope that all educational systems work toward the creation of a more just and equitable world. We believe that the RULER approach and any collective social initiative to support emotional awareness and empathy is a necessary ingredient for a more just and equitable world. Emotions matter and we support finding data to support that!

At the same time, our participation in the DU Research Study has particular considerations and implications! Researchers will collect this data by visiting participating childcare centers, such as Treehouse Learning. Our community is comprised primarily of families who live in, or nearby, Boulder County, and can afford to pay private tuition at a high-quality early childcare center that already has a primary focus on whole-person development, SEL, and overall well-being. Many of our families also hold complex sets of privileges around race, class, educational attainment, career or job security, ethnicity, physical ability or physical appearance, gender, or family structure (as in having a co-parenting partner). 

Benefits for ALL CHILDREN?!?

We can already positively anticipate that Treehouse Learning children will benefit from RULER, in addition to all of the other benefits, blessings, gifts, and opportunities these children have received! We’re also interested in tools, approaches, and experiences supporting the benefit of ALL CHILDREN, not just Treehouse Learning children!  Because ALL children matter. Given this structure, an interesting question to ask is who is included in the DU Study data? Who is not included? Can we ever take what we find from any given data set and make more broad applications about what would benefit “all children,” in a culturally humble, accurate, and effective way? 

We’re One, But We’re Not the Same!

Our newest Big Circle Peace Song includes a line about different stories, different faces, and different names. When we learn a name, wave to a friendly face, and hear the stories, then people we might first consider as “others” become “one another” and we build community, and a more just world. We are all equal, but we’re not all the same!

At Treehouse Learning, we seek to consider a trauma-informed lens, and a values framework of belonging, inclusion, diversity, equity, and sustainability. We are thankful for the opportunity to participate in research opportunities like the RULER DU Study, just as we also seek to continue asking questions, practicing the skill of critical thinking, and observing principles and values. All change towards a better world begins with you and me and the tools we ourselves can use for benefit and good in the world (or contributions to a community feeling). Emotions Matter!

RULER Preschool Study at Treehouse Learning

Treehouse Learning preschool teachers and children are eligible to participate in the study, and as part of our participation, Treehouse Learning is provided CLASS observations, which is an assessment tool specifically looking at adult-child interactions. Independent of the study, however, our entire program is focusing on the foundations for emotional literacy/intelligence, supporting the RULER objective of an “emotions matter” mindset. While the formal curriculum is new to Treehouse Learning, this is an extension of the ongoing and intentional learning already happening in each classroom, and it is so much fun to see the impact in action!

RULER In Action: From the mouths of real children and real parents: One evening, upon rushing home from work so that my partner could leave for a prior commitment, my 2-year-old and I had a slight power struggle about diving over the seats in the minivan. My “Best Parenting Self” would have used Jen Lumanlan’s Parenting Beyond Power framework to find a collaborative solution that also met (or at least acknowledged!) his need to play in the car. Instead, I was my “Doing My Best in the Moment Self,” and chose to exert my power in being bigger, stronger, and exhausted, and carried him in from the car, protesting. My 5-year-old daughter said, “Mama, I hear T. is crying [ an observation], and I heard how you shut the garage door, and I’m wondering if you’re feeling angry and you’re in the red zone on the mood meter? Mama, what can you do if you want to get back to the green zone? Do you want to take a calming breath together?”

Parent Resources: Building an Emotions Matter Mindset

There are many easy RULER Routines and SEL tools you can try at home to intentionally incorporate awareness, language, and understanding about feelings! We start with RULER by introducing the Mood Meter… Here are a few resources to get you started at home!

  • Mood Meter at home: The Mood Meter is a visual representation of our feelings along two axises (pleasantness and energy) where we can build awareness of feelings in ourselves and one another through a simple plot
  • Video: Understanding the Mood Meter for mood-congruent learning
  • Video: RULER in preschool programs
  • Video: Everything you’ve wanted to know about RULER and the Mood Meter
  • To Attend: Community Event: Visit the DU Graduate School of Professional Psychology’s “Fam Fair: It Takes a Village” Event on October 21, 2023 from 8-4:30 pm
  • To Consider: There are no good or bad feelings- feelings simply ARE. Feelings are teachers, and they are temporary. Ideally, we learn to look at feelings from a place of observation, not judgment and evaluation. 
  • To Read: Jen Lumalan’s Parenting Beyond Power has an excellent presentation of feelings as part of a needs-based collaborative communication model of observations, feelings, needs, and solutions/strategies.
  • For a Fascinating Listen… Just Trust Us! 192: What to do with the myth of Polyvagal Theory | Your Parenting Mojo 
    • Why Listen: We appreciate Jen Lumanlan’s work in modeling the skill of critical thinking about research studies, and to what extent we can actually extrapolate about all children from a mall sample size characterized by “sameness” in terms of race, class, etc.  
    • In this episode, Jen digs into the foundational principles of Polyvagal Theory, including the limited evidence that supports it, and then leads to profound questions that got me thinking: If a theory is simply a complex system of beliefs about how the world works, how do we make meaning of these thoughts, beliefs, and patterns and create new, beneficial thought patterns?
  • To Ponder: We live on a great big ball called Earth (a sphere) that spins on an axis and revolves around the sun. A circle is round, with no beginning, and no end. We start our day as a community in a CIRCLE at Big Circle, singing songs in a circle (and decorating our Big Room with a polka-dotted party of colorful circular artwork), and have circle time in classrooms as well. Even apples, gourds and pumpkins are circles (a sphere is a 3-D circle). We’re planning an upcoming Peacekeeper Circle professional training next semester, and we use many metaphors about the equality of a circle. Around a circle, every singe one of us is equally part of the circle, and a circle is equitable. Just like we too are equal, but not the same! And we’re all so similar just as we’re all so different! Some circular thoughts to revolve your head around, eh?

Related Images: