STEP UP (Strategies and Tools Embrace Prevention with Upstream Programs) is a social and emotional–learning-based curriculum for middle school students, ages 11 to 14, aimed at promoting positive mental health, building emotional competence, and creating a safe school climate. STEP UP was developed in 2013, in response to the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The curriculum was adapted from the elementary school version, Camp MakeBelieve Kids, which was originally developed by a child therapist in a clinical setting to incorporate key concepts and skills for promoting protective factors for resiliency and decreasing risk factors for problem behavior.
STEP UP incorporates components of the social-ecological model, social learning/social cognitive theory, and positive psychology in its curriculum implementation and instruction. In addition, the curriculum incorporates skills of metacognition and mindfulness to provide a positive learning experience. STEP UP also emphasizes the use of positive behavioral intentions and supports (PBIS). STEP UP includes eight key concepts and skills sets: 1) social connections, 2) identifying and expressing feelings safely, 3) respecting boundaries, 4) building empathy, 5) mood control, 6) stopping manipulation, 7) self-regulation, and 8) self-motivation and emotional intelligence. These concepts are taught over 16, 25-minute lessons, delivered once or twice per week. Each lesson includes interactive activities, group discussions, role playing, and additional assignments. Nine lessons also provide parents or caregivers with resources, follow-up strategies, and suggestions to reinforce program skills at home.