Program Goals/Target Population
Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices is an early childhood curriculum designed to increase the protective factor of social and emotional competence in young children and to decrease the risk factor of early and persistent aggression or antisocial behavior. The resiliency-based curriculum is designed to provide real-life situations that introduce children to health-promoting concepts and build prosocial skills, such as understanding feelings, accepting differences, caring about others, using self-control, and managing anger.
The program follows the premise that intervening during the early years when children are forming patterns of behaviors and attitudes can reduce the likelihood that they will later develop aggressive, antisocial, or violent behavior. Al’s Pals is based heavily on resiliency research as a framework for developing an intervention. The program curriculum is designed to build resiliency by presenting children with real-life situations that introduce them to health-promoting concepts and prosocial skills. The program also recognizes the ongoing nature of resilience building and trains teachers to use resilience-promoting concepts in their classroom management practices (Lynch, Geller, and Schmidt 2004).
Al’s Pals uses 46 interactive lessons that teach children how to practice positive ways to express feelings, relate to others, communicate, brainstorm ideas, solve problems, and differentiate between safe and unsafe substances and situations. Lessons are delivered twice a week over 23 weeks. Each lesson lasts 15 to 20 minutes and typically consists of two or three activities, including puppet-led discussions, brainstorming, role plays, and guided creative play. Three original puppets (Al, Ty, and Keisha) are used by teachers to reinforce prosocial behavior and express clear messages that the use of violence, drugs, and alcohol is not acceptable. The puppets lead discussions and activities designed to help children practice getting along with others and making safe and healthy choices.
Some of the lessons include parental involvement. Teachers regularly send home curriculum letters from Al to update parents about the skills and lessons their children are learning, and to suggest activities that can be completed at home to reinforce those concepts. “Al-a-Gram” messages can also be sent home so children who display specific Al’s Pals skills, such as using kind words, can be recognized at home by their parents.
3 to 8
Overall, the results were mixed. Lynch, Geller, and Schmidt (2004) found the intervention group improved significantly on measures of social–emotional competence, prosocial skills, and some measures of coping, but there was no improvement in problem behaviors at the posttest. At the same time, the control group showed no significant improvements in measures of social–emotional competence, prosocial skills, and coping, and actually showed higher ratings of problem behaviors at the posttest.
Social–Emotional Competence and Prosocial Skills
From pretest to posttest, classrooms that received the Al’s Pals intervention showed significant positive changes in social–emotional competence and prosocial skills based on measures from the Preschool and Kindergarten Behavior Scale (PKBS) and Child Behavior Rating Scale-30. The control classrooms showed no significant changes on these measures.
The intervention group saw significant positive changes in measures of positive coping and “distract/avoid” from the Teacher Report of Child Coping. However, there was no significant change on the measure of negative coping. The control group did not make any statistically significant changes on any measures of coping.
The intervention classrooms showed no significant changes on any of the problem behavior measures from the PKBS. The control classroom did show significant changes, but in the wrong direction. That is, the control group showed significantly higher average ratings on measures of problem behaviors at the end of the school year than it did at the beginning of the school year.
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