What is Social Emotional Learning?

June 30, 2022

Navigating the continual, ever-changing aspects of life is much like floating a kayak down a river. There are ups, there are downs, there are little (and big) surprises, obstacles and achievements of all sizes. To maneuver through the river, we learn a ton of lessons. Preparation is key, as well as utilizing the tools at hand and being able to roll with the dips and swells life presents.

If we look at life as a river, then Social Emotional Learning skills would be the tools we’d use to navigate the many events we encounter throughout our lives.

If you’ve done any browsing around our website, you may have noticed a continued reference to SEL, or Social Emotional Learning. Sure, it sounds great, but what exactly is SEL?

At its root, Social Emotional Learning is connected to essentially all learned behaviors, fundamentally helping to shape nearly every aspect of kids’ (and adults’) attitudes, character and how they handle an endless variety of situations.

It covers things like interpersonal skills, self regulation of emotions and emotion management, problem-solving, empathy, respect, collaboration, mindfulness, self awareness, trust, initiative and much more.

The impact that SEL can have on kids is boundless. Competency in SEL skills can reduce bullying, advance educational equity, improve focus, enhance critical thinking skills, contribute to safer and more just communities, and has the ability to reduce anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicide.

Ultimately, Social Emotional Learning skills can have a major effect on kids all the way through adulthood. Individuals of any age can take part in activities and exercises to explore and expand their own SEL skills.

Developed by the Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.”

CASEL breaks SEL down into five components referred to as the CASEL five; self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, social awareness and responsible decision making. Application of the CASEL five in the classroom and at home as early as preschool “helps cultivate skills and environments that advance students’ learning and development.”

For as many areas SEL effects, there are also countless ways to build upon SEL skills. Mindfulness activities such as meditation, visualization exercises, noise isolation, naming emotions, sharing circles, positive attributes and gratitude activities, poetry writing, group debate and journaling are simple and easy ways to integrate SEL at home and in school. As well, skills like collaboration and problem-solving can be explored as kids work towards a common goal or on a project together.

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