Curriculum Alignment

How New York State Mental Health Requirements Align with The Positivity Project

By Kim Arroyo

In July 2018, New York State Education Department (NYSED) created a document which provides guidance for effective mental health education in the classroom and school building environment.  According to the NYSED document, it was specifically stated that, “Quality mental health education is especially urgent right now, as NYS and our nation confront serious issues that impact our children’s lives both in and out of school, such as teen suicide, bullying and cyberbullying, and opioid and alcohol addiction.”

As a School Psychologist who works at both the Kindergarten/1st grade and 9th-12th grade levels in a suburban school district in central New York, I see the increased need for mental health support across our district.  NYSED has provided guidance for four grade bands, which are broken down as follows: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  With many new education-based initiatives being presented every year, the challenge for teachers, administrators, support staff and students is how to fit everything into the six and a half hour school day.

In the district where I am employed, we have embraced The Positivity Project (P2) into our school district’s culture.  As background, The Positivity Project is an SEL/character education organization with the mission to empower America’s youth to build positive relationships and become their best selves. They equip teachers with no-prep, short, and engaging digital SEL lessons — so that they can support the social and emotional well-being of their students.  Using a 32-week strategy that starts in September and ends in May, P2 offers daily 10-15 minute digital lesson plans that teach positive psychology’s 24 character strengths and the #OtherPeopleMindset.

Students in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade participate in The Positivity Project character strength learning either daily or weekly, depending on the grade level.  At the primary level in our district, students participate with the daily character strength slides during their morning meeting or as a break in their core curriculum.  At the high school level, our district has begun weekly P2 advisory groups that consist of a faculty advisor and cross-section of students from all four grade levels.  The faculty advisors include: classroom teachers, school administrators, administrative assistants, school nurse, school social worker and school resource officer.  These groups will stay the same every year, with the exiting of the seniors and addition of new 9th grade students.  During these advisory groups, the faculty advisors lead students in an activity based on the character strength of the week that results in many outcomes ranging from a group discussion to a building-wide project.

When looking at the NYSED Mental Health Requirements and The Positivity Project character education strategy, they go hand-in-hand.  All of the mental health requirements align with one or more of the positive psychology’s 24 character strengths that are taught within The Positivity Project.  In my experience, students are learning about themselves by engaging in P2 strength conversations at all levels.  Hearing Kindergarten and 1st grade students telling each other to “persevere” through a challenging task is incredible.  I watched High School students put their own needs aside to send “Get Well” cards to a child who underwent a surgery, which was admirable, and evidence that they too are embracing the Other People Mindset.

I am happy to share my preliminary work on the alignment of the NYSED Mental Health Requirements and The Positivity Project with the P2 Partner Schools here:

I look forward to seeing this document adapt to fit the needs of students that are being served by amazing educators.  I would like to thank The Positivity Project leaders for the opportunity to combine these standards with a character education strategy that is near and dear to my heart as a School Psychologist.


Wondering what The Positivity Project could look like in your classroom?

We’d like to invite you, and any of your colleagues, to see what #PositivityInAction looks like with a free 7-day trial. You can sign up here so that you can get a true sense of The Positivity Project’s benefits: easy and adaptable for teachers, engaging and impactful for students, and a schoolwide common vocabulary, and positive culture.

Kim Arroyo
Kim Arroyo

My name is Kimberly Arroyo and I am a School Psychologist within the Westhill Central School District in Syracuse, NY.  I have been working in this district as the School Psychologist in our Kindergarten/1st grade building, as well as in our High School for the last five and a half years.  I earned my undergraduate degree from St. Lawrence University in 2008 and my doctoral degree from Alfred University in 2014.  I live outside of Syracuse with my husband, our one-year-old son and our dog.