The Impact of Social Emotional Learning

I walked into a Grade 5 class recently, and students were learning about the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. No, it wasn’t Science, as you may have assumed. It was a Wellness class led by our new Elementary and Middle School Counselor Meghan Keller, and the students were learning about how these parts of the brain help us process and manage our emotions. 

In one of my earlier columns we examined our approach to social emotional learning (SEL) in Early Childhood, and now I wanted to share what our Dragons are learning during the Elementary years. All of our homeroom and specials teachers incorporate these practices and principles into their teaching approach throughout the day, but we believe that SEL is so important that each of our Elementary Dragons takes a weekly Wellness course taught by Ms. Keller. Social emotional learning provides the foundation for our Dragons to feel secure in their learning environment, learn how to take risks, and to grow academically and personally. 

Our Wellness course helps students develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Here are a few examples of what our Dragons are learning in their Wellness classes:

  • How to recognize and name their emotions
  • How to understand how others are feeling by observing their facial expressions, body language, their tone of voice, their words, and the situation
  • How to calm their bodies when they are feeling strong emotions with tactics such as deep belly and square breathing
  • How to practice positive self talk 
  • How thoughts influence feelings

The skills and approaches to what they are learning progresses through the grades. Our Grade 2 Dragons are doing a deep dive into understanding and naming their emotions. For Halloween, they took turns helping their classmates transform into mummies and discussed the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and managing any frustrations they may have had in the process.  Our Grade 5 Dragons are learning about emotion management and different communication styles. 

The correlation between strong social emotional skills and academic success is unmistakable. One study showed that students who participated in strong SEL programs demonstrated improved academic achievement in test scores by 11 percentile points compared to control groups. Well-developed emotional intelligence and relational skills are a crucial component in helping our Dragons become kind, confident, and prepared adults who are ready to be leaders in their communities. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School