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September 01, 2015 12:00 PM

Sanford Harmony Program Coming To Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls pre-school teachers started training on a new program geared towards early childhood students.  It's part of a $30 million national initiative called Sanford Education Collaborative.

Sanford Harmony was created by Arizona State University, with funding from T. Denny Sanford. The program aims to help children at a young age have better relationships, especially with the opposite gender. Now with the help of the University of South Dakota, the program has arrived in the Rushmore State.

A room full of pre-school teachers listens to T. Denny Sanford talk about a program that's been more than eight years in the making.

In 2014, Sanford first told KELOLAND News about Z, the mascot of the Sanford Harmony Program. Z is a Martian from a planet that doesn't have boys and girls. He's supposed to start an open dialogue so boys and girls get a chance to talk openly about gender. 

Now Z finds himself in South Dakota. For the past few years, the program has been put in school districts across the country, and Sanford says it's been a success.

"They learn faster, more comfortably, and there's less commotion and disruption in the classroom. The teachers love it for that reason," Sanford said.

Sanford, who's been divorced twice himself, hopes that implementing this program at a young age will help reduce the divorce rate across the nation. 

"Eliminates a lot of the separation and segregation by genders. That we have, 'OK, girls let's do this today.  OK, boys let's do this.' No, they're given projects to work on together," Sanford said.

This was the first day of training for teachers in the Sioux Falls School District. The program will be in every preschool classroom this year.

"When the kids come to school and they're healthy and they know how to interact with their peers and the adults in their classroom, in their homes, in their communities. Then they come to school, ready to learn, and then they can focus on the academics," Valerie Peters said.

While the program is geared toward young children, the Dean of USD's School of Education says what the students learn now will still be with them once they reach college age.

"If we can really build on this program by the time they get to college, they will really have those skills to really understand how to interact; how to engage the notion of diversity.  When they get into college and there's a diverse of students that they are interacting with, it gives them better skills to do that once they get in college," Donald Easton-Brooks said.

A new program with big expectations.

Sanford says there are 40,000 children already in the program worldwide.

  • Pre K

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