Early Learning System

Initiative: Tools of the Mind

Tools of the Mind

Tools of the Mind is an evidence-based curriculum for preschool and Kindergarten children based on the developmental theory of Lev Vygotsky. Classrooms using this curriculum focus on creating an environment where children develop stronger executive function and self-regulation skills through rich opportunities for make-believe play, individualized instruction, and a focus on whole-child development.

The Challenge

In Elkhart County, there is a 75% unmet need for high-quality preschool for low-income families. High-quality preschool provides children the opportunity to develop skills that impact their lifelong achievement. This education is critical for all children, particularly for families who do not have other resources to develop early literacy, numeracy, and executive function skills.

Tools of the Mind - Horizon Education Alliance

The Solution

The Early Learning Networks that HEA supports seek to increase the number of 4-year-olds in high-quality preschool programs. Tools of the Mind curriculum was the first initiative launched as part of this effort. Meeting the unmet needs for preschool in our county requires a collaborative effort that engages all sectors of our community. The goal is to provide all families with equal access to the resources they need to ensure their child’s success.

The Tools of the Mind Network

Elkhart Community Schools Title I preschool and the PACE Program
Elkhart County Special Education Cooperative
Goshen Community Schools Title I preschool
Eighth Street Mennonite Church Preschool
Growing Kids Learning Center, Bristol
Elkhart County Career Center Preschool

Indicators of Success


100% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed Tools of the Mind is preparing children for Kindergarten on the end-of-year survey.


100% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed the Tools of the Mind training and curriculum had provided the opportunity to develop valuable teaching skills.

During the pilot year, schools assessed students at the end of Kindergarten using a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.


90% of children rated as “proficient” or “expert” in most non-cognitive readiness skills.


93% of children from low-income families rated as “proficient” or “expert” in most non-cognitive readiness skills.


72% of children showed proficiency in cognitive skills development.

Tools of the Mind

Contact Information

Sarah Metzler, Director of Foundations for Learning
(574) 349-7337

HEA History with Tools of the Mind

In Spring of 2014, a committee of 15 educators and early childhood experts joined to research preschool programs to enhance the quality of preschool. They selected Tools of the Mind as an evidence-based curriculum with promise for preparing children for success in Kindergarten and beyond.

During the 2014-2015 school year, HEA partnered with 12 preschools to pilot the Tools of the Mind preschool program in 21 classrooms.

HEA has continued to support professional development opportunities for Tools of the Mind teachers. Tools of the Mind is being implemented in public, private, and ministry programs.

Due to the success of Tools of the Mind preschool, Elkhart Community Schools and Goshen Community Schools integrated Tools of the Mind Kindergarten program in 37 school classrooms.

In June 2017, the “On My Way Pre-K,” program for 4-year-olds in Indiana chose Elkhart County to expand programming.