Denver Public Schools Champions Innovation


A Summary of ASSET’s Case Studies by the DPS Imaginarium Innovation Lab

In February 2016, Tessa found herself on stage at the Denver Public Schools Imaginarium Innovation Lab’s Design Challenge sharing the success of the ASSET pilot in Brent Modak’s classroom. Tessa shared her observations: a loud group of students with high-stress levels could be calmed down and focused within five minutes of an ASSET lesson. Brent also noticed a change within himself; he, too, was calmer and more focused after he led ASSET in his class.

Tessa and Brent were curious to learn more: was the impact in Brent’s classroom an anomaly? Or would it boast the same results in classrooms across the district?

The DPS Imaginarium saw the potential in ASSET, and Tessa came out of the competition with a $9,000 grant to pilot a summer professional development training program in ASSET. That was the beginning of a partnership between the Imaginarium and ASSET.

The Imaginarium’s Findings

In 2017, Signe Hawley, a research partner at the Imaginarium, began studying ASSET in two eleventh grade classrooms at two different high schools. Signe sought to answer a couple of questions:

  • Was ASSET actually decreasing student stress?

  • Was ASSET increasing students’ abilities to be mindful?

The answer to both questions? Yes.

In just two months of having ASSET twice per week, 50% of students reduced their stress and 66% increased their mindfulness.

After implementing ASSET in a few classrooms across the district, ASSET and the Imaginarium went a step further, seeking to answer a larger question: what was ASSET’s impact when implemented school-wide for a year?

In the 2017-18 school year, Signe studied ASSET in three different Denver public high schools. She found 60% of students decreased their stress and their reduction in stress was statistically significant. Arguably, the most important data Signe found was that 92% of students reported using the ASSET tools inside or outside of the classroom.

The ASSET team is incredibly grateful to the Denver Public Schools Imaginarium Innovation Lab because not only did they provide the funding and support to launch, but they crunched the data to prove that the innovation was a success.


About the Author

Tessa Zimmerman grew up experiencing severe anxiety in the classroom. It wasn’t until she received a full scholarship to a private high school that she learned the tools to cope with stress and anxiety. Tessa founded ASSET to bring equity to education and make sure all teachers have the tools to help their students cope with stress and anxiety. She has been recognized by Forbes as a “wildly successful millennial with an untraditional education.” In 2017, Tessa’s first book, I Am Tessa, was published by One Idea Press. As the single and childless member of the team, Tessa enjoys her free time, hot yoga practice, and cooking with friends.


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