When Dallas was selected by the Wallace Foundation in 2017 as one of the 6 cities for a nationwide social and emotional learning initiative, we knew it would be a long journey through uncharted territory. Together with Dallas ISD, Dallas Afterschool and Dallas Park and Recreation, we created the SEL Dallas coalition. Together, we work collaboratively to develop truly innovative and integrated best practices for social and emotional learning.
While social and emotional learning (SEL) is far from a new concept, our charge empowered us take a unique approach – review the various academic and theoretical concepts about SEL and then develop and implement a plan to implement a comprehensive learning strategy during the class day and in the after school program environment. Our goal was to have SEL be truly embedded in the learning experience so that it becomes the “how” of learning rather than the the “what”.
For the past several years, teachers, counselors, after school instructors and administrators from the SEL Dallas coalition have worked hand in hand to take theory into practice. Here’s insider’s view of how SEL shows up during the Thriving Minds after school program at Daniel Webster Elementary, one of the Dallas ISD campuses that is currently part of the SEL Dallas initiative.
Using music and motion
Youth learn how to read the emotions of others by understanding how to read body language. Youth also learn how to use ballet, yoga and movement techniques to calm their own emotions.
Youth learn to express their feelings through poetry and storytelling, and then to convert those to music. Feeling happy? The students can make the song faster or add a tambourine. Feeling frustrated? Youth can add a loud drum or make the vocals louder. All in all, youth learn how to express themselves and appreciate the expressions of their peers.
After school program staff align their weekly plans to an SEL Pacing Guide, which compliments the SEL curriculum being utilized during the school day. In these pictures, students read the book Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, and then discuss the ingredients to make a better pie – a Friendship Pie!
Other pictures show after school instructors and students becoming SEL Superheroes. Learners were engaged in breathing exercises by while drawing circles and counting their heart beats. Learners also practiced mindfulness with an Extreme Silent Game. They even had the opportunity to pair their chemistry skills with self care strategies by creating lotion with organic ingredients and essential oils in relaxing fragrances.
Engaging the Whole Family
We embrace that parents and family are the primary educators and influencers in an young child’s life, and we create opportunities to engage families in the child’s daily school and after school experiences. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for the youth to showcase new skills or completion of a large project, and other times it’s simply a family game night. Regardless of the activity, we build in opportunities for the entire family to talk and share openly.