The Power of Connection

CONNECT Classes at Dakota Memorial School

The Power of Connection

For several years, Dakota Memorial School has been creating a program that gives students opportunities to learn important social skills, build relationships with their teachers and peers, and obtain the knowledge and skills they need to transition back to public school or adulthood.

The program, now called "CONNECT," has evolved as we've learned more about neuroscience and the power of connection. CONNECT is now a 30-minute period using research-based curriculum focused on three pillars—social-emotional learning, executive functioning, and transitions.

One of the goals of CONNECT is to help students feel more connected to their school and teachers so they are more likely to attend class, enjoy school, and perform well academically.

Students are assigned a CONNECT teacher; and spend 30 minutes each day in their CONNECT classroom. The teachers are assigned 5-8 students, giving them time to work through the curriculum and attend to the specific needs of each child.

Examples of CONNECT lessons and activities include:

Social-Emotional Learning

  1. Using active listening
  2. Cultivating curiosity and grit
  3. Focusing and prioritizing
  4. Creating first impressions

Executive Functioning

  1. Defeating your 'beasts"
  2. Handling negative feelings
  3. Scheduling your time
  4. Flexibility


  1. Managing a budget
  2. The importance of saying
  3. High school graduation requirements
  4. Applying for an apartment
  5. Finding a job

"As educators, we understand that learning increases as healthy relationships develop in classrooms; both between students and educators, and students and peers," said Marcia Bartok, Superintendent, Dakota Memorial School. "CONNECT is intentionally designed to incorporate neuroscience-identified strategies into our trauma-sensitive classrooms, enhancing connection and building skills students need to live meaningful lives."

Mallory Halvorson, Prinicipal at DMS, Bismarck, has seen the impact of CONNECT on her students.

"The kids all know their CONNECT teacher is someone they can go to if they are having a bad day, someone they can have those tough conversations with," Mallory said. "Building it into their day so it's routine and intentional has been incredible."

This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Winter 2021.

Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.

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