Purple Bunnies

Ali Reykdal


Happy New Year! 

Today I’m here to talk to you about Purple Bunnies. You might be thinking… “Has Ali spent a little too much time to herself over winter break?” The answer to that is -- maybe. Yet it’s also that Purple Bunnies are tied to a part of an instructional tool I’ve explored this academic year and one on which I’ve centered my professional learning. This essential tool is social emotional learning. 

You might be wondering, what do Purple Bunnies have to do with SEL? I found myself asking the exact same question about a year ago, as I sat in a comfy conference chair. Another educator from my district, Trisha Dotts, was presenting on Purple Bunnies. I didn’t know Trish personally but was eager to hear what she had to say. As Trish spoke to her passion, how Purple Bunnies had transformed her relationships in middle school and created perseverance in her students, I was impressed and intrigued. I found myself thinking that my students couldn’t take it to that level, as they were seven, yet I would find out that my perceptions didn’t allow for their abilities. 


Hand drawn image of a bunnie in purple ink.


Fast forward to this fall, and Trish was in a shiny new position in our K-2 building as our STEM teacher. Our school has the unique opportunity of having specials (e.g. art, music) classes in our classrooms during prep time, due to a delay in space availability. I heard Trish repeating “Purple Bunnies” during her teaching and in response, my rambunctious second graders replied, “The feeling I earn when I solve a problem.” This evolved into hearing her teach my students big words like perseverance and watched as they worked through the unique challenges that STEM instruction provides with an SEL lens. This language started to seep into our everyday learning, too. We’d work through a tough math lesson and an eager camper would exclaim “That’s Purple Bunnies!!!”. This was a change in perspective for me, my students could take it to that level. Purple bunnies were totally working for our group of learners. I want to share this with you to show you that Trish’s passion for SEL and the Purple Bunnies model, was successful and had full buy-in from elementary students. Purple Bunnies are contagious! 

framework circle of SEL

Let’s take a deeper look at the core components of SEL and how Trish’s Purple Bunnies model can address and broaden some components. 






Self Awareness- The individual has the ability to identify their emotions, personal assets, areas for growth, and potential external resources and supports. 

The Purple Bunny Model helps students experience their sense of agency as a resource.  They can talk about the feeling of earning Purple Bunnies.  They can self-reflect to recognize areas where they feel less agency.  One student noted, “I have a lot of Purple Bunnies when I am doing math.  But at PE I feel like I can’t do things right.” 

Social Awareness- The individual has the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures. 

The model allows students to see that individuals, no matter their background or culture have a need to feel accomplishment.  Each person needs to feel accepted and each person has a different capacity to handle struggles.  When we use this model, the students recognize that some people do not have as many Purple Bunnies.  Since everyone needs them, and some people do not know how to get them, they try to take them from people. This gives students a way to see that their peers may have communication or emotional challenges that come as a result of the student’s struggle to earn Purple Bunnies.

Self Management- The individual has the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors

It ‘costs’ Purple Bunnies to regulate behaviors.  When a person is low in Purple Bunnies it is more difficult to regulate emotions. Students understand that emotions are sometimes easy to regulate and difficult at other times depending on our current level of Purple Bunnies.

Self Efficacy- The individual has the ability to motivate themselves, persevere, and see themselves as capable.

Part of the Purple Bunnies method involves a problem solving tunnel. The problem solving tunnel is a great tool for teaching how to persevere through a challenge we face.  The length of the tunnel can fluctuate depending on the situation.  The tunnel can be longer to represent problems that are too extensive to earn Purple Bunnies in the class and shorter to represent too small a challenge. The tunnel can also multiply; this happens when instead of solving a problem, a person creates a new problem. For instance, a person does not know how to solve a math problem so he copies the paper of another person.  The first problem is not solved and now the problem is compounded by cheating. 

Hand drawn tunnel with Problem on it. Arrows leading to a hand drawn purple bunny

Social Engagement- The individual has the ability to consider others and show a desire to contribute to the well-being of the school and community. 

The other way to earn Purple Bunnies is to help others.  When a person helps others, they get Purple Bunnies and so does the recipient.  Also, students get Purple Bunnies when we watch other people get Purple Bunnies.


When you combine these components you create a culture of perseverance and social learning. The components give students great vocabulary to identify and regulate their problems. Purple Bunnies is a framework that provides a visual picture and vocabulary that allows students to identify abstract SEL concepts. She then uses Purple Bunnies language and lessons to guide students toward finding strategies to self-regulate and collaborate with others.


Picture of Trisha DottsTo learn more about Trisha and Purple Bunnies, you can visit her blog and website here. Thank you, Trish, for being my colleague and allowing me to share your creativity!




How many Purple Bunnies do you have today? How are you helping your students earn Purple Bunnies?


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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.