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Oxford Preschool Curriculum Promotes Empathy and Equity Through Social-Emotional Learning

A TikTok slide-show video depicts Dantanio Brooks-Threadgill standing in a chair pouring rice into a bowl in the kitchen sink. He adds oil to a skillet before adding chicken. The 4-year-old then pours canned tomatoes, beans and corn into three separate blue bowls on the counter before cutting the top off  of and coring a bell pepper. He washes those in the sink and fills them with meat, rice, vegetables and beans. The final slide shows a finished stuffed bell pepper meal.

Kenya Wolff received the video from a parent whose child made the meal using one of the family meal kits from The Growing Healthy Minds, Bodies and Communities program, a standards-based curriculum out of the University of Mississippi that focuses on “the whole child.” The whole-child approach to education focuses on all areas of a child’s development including social-emotional learning, cognitive skills and literacy. UM’s program also has a keen focus on yoga and nutrition. 

Early childhood professor Kenya Wolff and Assistant Chair of Teacher Education Alicia Staff first piloted the program at Willie Price Lab School in Oxford in 2019. She and Staff completed a research study that showed introducing preschool children to yoga and mindfulness had positive effects. Under Wolff’s tenure as interim director, the lab implemented Conscious Discipline and yoga. The pair then began creating the curriculum for GHMBC and secured funding from the Kellogg Foundation to begin expanding the program. 

“We started with just a 12-week program,” Wolff said. “Then during COVID, we had a great pilot. We did it in surrounding schools here in Lafayette and Oxford, but we really wanted to see it grow into schools that were less well funded, and Kellogg saw our vision.”

However, COVID hindered some of the plans Wolff and Staff had. To compensate for family events, they began to send meal kits home. The kits were so popular that they are now a staple of the program. Twice a year, recipe kits that include a book, meal ingredients, and a video of a chef preparing the meal are sent home to families. 

“We started that during

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