January ushers in new opportunities and possibilities. For us educators it’s an opportunity to reflect on our challenges and mistakes, apply new learning, recommit to our short and long-term goals, and translate ideas into action.

Perhaps you made a commitment at the beginning of the school year to promote and foster a growth mindset and social and emotional learning (SEL). Or you wondered how to introduce growth mindset principles and practices like neuroplasticity and malleable intelligence to young learners. In the spirit of new opportunities and possibilities, we have a gift for you: Growing Early Mindsets™ (GEM™)!

Since the introduction of a growth mindset in education, its popularity and impact has expanded and deepened in transformational ways. Whole Child and SEL movements continue to gain momentum and more and more educators and parents seek to promote, teach, and foster a growth mindset and SEL from the earliest of opportunities. Ten years ago, I was one of those educators and parents. I started to wonder, How might we promote, teach, and foster a growth mindset and SEL from the beginning? How might we celebrate the Whole Child and their unlimited potential? These wonderings led to GEM.

Growing Early Mindsets (GEM) is a new literacy-based teaching and learning framework that integrates a growth mindset, SEL, and mindfulness principles and practices across PreK-3rd learning environments. Through a variety of rich and engaging explicit and embedded teaching and learning opportunities organized around nine Learning Labs and companion children’s books, young learners are introduced to the power of a growth mindset, SEL, and mindfulness.

They explore neuroscience basics such as how the brain works (Lab 1: Learning About Our Brain), how it gets stronger and smarter through their effort and learning (Lab 2: Learning How Our Brain Gets Smarter), and how they learn through their senses (Lab 3: Learning Through Our Senses). They learn about their emotions and other ways to take care of themselves and their brains (Lab 4: Learning to Take Care of You and Your Brain) and how to learn and grow together as a learning community (Lab 5: Learning and Growing Together). Learners practice applying a growth mindset and SEL to learning something new (Lab 6), problem solving (Lab 7), taking on challenges (Lab 8), and learning from mistakes (Lab 9).

Over several years I designed and developed GEM in the field, informed by several guiding thoughts and theories from my teaching and parenting experience and research:

  • Intelligence, abilities, talents, and skills are malleable.
  • “An individual's true potential is unknown and unknowable.” –Carol Dweck
  • Children aren’t born believing their intelligence, skills, and abilities are fixed and unchangeable.
  • We can teach children about the brain, how it works, and other neuroscience basics such as neuroplasticity and malleable intelligence when their brains are the most malleable and they are learning and demonstrating growth-mindset oriented and SEL skills and behaviors.
  • The early years of a child’s life are the most critical period for brain development and growth.
  • Evidence of growth mindset and SEL behaviors are abundant in young learners, especially during play.
  • Prevention works.

We piloted GEM across a variety of PreK-3rd learning environments and tested it with kindergarten through third graders. We found that SEL-related behaviors were significantly higher for GEM learners than the control group. We also found that GEM teachers adopted more of a growth mindset and reported increased motivation to improve their overall teaching practices and confidence in their ability to integrate SEL and growth mindset practices.

GEM is an inspiration for a variety of changes including redesigning physical learning environments, embedding play in early elementary, applying a growth mindset to SEL, increasing SEL skills and adopting SEL and deeper learning approaches such as project-based and service learning, promoting and fostering a growth mindset and SEL for children AND adults, shifting how we view ourselves, each other, and the world around us, adopting creativity and innovation through processes like Design Thinking, and educators celebrating their own unlimited potential.

We hope you find inspiration in GEM and it serves as a catalyst for meaningful change in your life and in the lives of others. After all, GEM is not a curriculum, it’s a movement.

Learn more about GEM! 


Dr. Kendra Coates is a steadfast believer in accessing and celebrating our unlimited potential. She is a learner, educator, mom, consultant, author, and coach. She is the author of Growing Early Mindsets™ (GEM™), a new literacy-based teaching and learning framework from Mindset Works, the global leader in growth mindset. Kendra has twenty years of PreK-12 teaching and leadership experience and currently serves as Regional Director of P-3rd Education in Oregon. She holds a B.A. in political science, a M.A.T. in Special Education, a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a D.Ed. in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership. She holds educational licenses in literacy, PreK–12 special education, early childhood and elementary education, and school administration in the state of Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @DrKendraCoates.