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Institute for Rural Education and Development

Core 2: Elementary School

Children’s social-emotional/behavioral (SEB) health is foundational in STEM learning and healthy development. Rural students have unique circumstances that may intensify behavioral risk, like limited access to support resources.

Fostering Social-Emotional/Behavioral Health in Elementary Schools

This core research area evaluates rural schools' behavioral health screeners to make sure they’re useful and of sound quality for decision-making about students. It also develops new intervention methods that work for the resources available to rural schools.

While SEB health is of concern for all children, research has consistently shown that risk occurs more frequently for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods, which occur often in rural areas. 

Project Significance

  • The lack of funds and personnel in rural schools can make successful SEB screening and intervention methods difficult, resulting in students unable to take advantage of STEM learning and opportunities.

  • This research provides new screeners for students struggling with SEB health, as well as offers solutions to intervention that can be carried out without the creation of smaller learning groups.

  • This research explores screening and intervention methods that can be implemented in rural classrooms that often have limited resources.

Research Innovation 

While most existing SEB screeners are based on either a deficit or strength model, our research studies how taking both strengths and deficits into account when screening impacts results and intervention methods. 

We then implement this dual factor model to help screeners determine not only what problems a student is facing, but also what are the strengths they possess that could help overcome those problems.

Research Aims

  1. Examine needs and current activities of rural participants to identify strengths, barriers, challenges and environmental modifications necessary to conduct multi-tiered system of supports for preventative SEB risk

  2. Create a dual-factor measure of SEB and examine functioning of the measure

  3. Examine alternative methods for conducting Tier 2 interventions with at-risk students

Purpose: To examine the interplay between SEB and STEM education activities through a set of related aims

Hypothesis: Rural schools, with limited monetary and personnel resources, may have difficulty engaging in the recommended tiered activities, resulting in students unable to take advantage of STEM learning and opportunities. 

Goal: Utilize an iterative development process for SEB programs and procedures that works effectively in rural school settings

Vision: New SEB screeners that deliver more accurate results and the creation of intervention programs that don't require small break-out groups

SC Impact

While this research improves many aspects of the rural education system in South Carolinaa high percentage of the state's schoolscertain areas will benefit greatly from this focus area and the institute's work at large. 

STEM Career Exposure

Through this research, rural teachers receive the insight and lesson plan ideas they need to carry out STEM content and career development programs. With more exposure to STEM education and career paths, South Carolina's large population of rural students will develop the skills needed to pursue successful STEM careers.

Workforce Development

The institute's project for middle and high school students will involve developing health science content and immersive virtual reality activities. Introducing rural students to health science career opportunities through virtual reality experiences will help develop a strong STEM workforce in South Carolina.

Developmental Skill Building

According to the 2020 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, fewer than 1 in 4 students in South Carolina are ready for kindergarten. The institute's program for preschool students will create an integrated curriculum that promotes the development of the gross motor skills required with coding and robotics.

Teacher Support

The institute's creation of holistic educational programs and procedures that work effectively in rural school settings alleviates some of the burden on school teachers. Supporting rural teachers will help improve educational outcomes for the many rural students in South Carolina.


Notable Awards, Outcomes and Practical Uses for this Research 

  • Immersive Mathematics in Rendered Environments Laboratories Partnership: Fosters the use of VR for STEM education
  • Strength-Based Screener: SEB screener that takes into account both a student's deficits and strengths 
  • Teacher-Led Interventions in the Classroom: Eliminates the need for smaller group-based intervention methods

Institute for Rural Education and Development

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.