Social and emotional learning is a new idea being talked about in the hallways of schools. Recently educators and community leaders gathered on the Coast to learn more about it.
Kim Schonert Reichl, leading scholar and researcher on children’s social and emotional competencies, came to the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club to share her research and shed some light on the topic Feb. 6 and 7.
“What’s happened in the past decade or so is there’s been science emerging about how important it is to educate the heart and the mind and to include this as an explicit and intentional part of education,” Schonert Reichl said.
She presented the 2013 CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emo-tional Learning) guide, which lists effective social and emotional learning programs available to schools in Canada.
Each program addresses five research-based social and emotional competencies: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
On the Coast two CASEL approved programs, the Mindfulness Project and the Roots of Empathy program, are already running, thanks in part to the Sunshine Coast Social Emotional Planning Table, which was set up a year ago.
It was the planning table that arranged for Schonert Reichl to visit.
“The intention in bringing Kim to the Coast was to increase community and school district awareness and understanding of social emotional learning and its importance in our schools and in a healthy community,” said Stacia Leech, member of the planning table and project manager for the mindfulness project.
While programs to teach emotional competencies are important, Schonert Reichl said relationships are key.
She pointed to a recent study she did with children in grades 4 to 7.
“We looked at the number of adults children had whom they said were important to them in their schools, and we wanted to see how it linked to these positive emotions like empathy, optimism and self esteem. We found those children who had said ‘there are no adults in this school who are important to me,’ they were lowest on all three dimensions,” she said. “Children who could name one adult were higher, and children who could name two or more adults in their school community were the highest on all these dimensions, again emphasizing the power of relationships.”
Schonert Reichl also presented the two by 10 concept that showed the most “challenging” child, if given the chance to have a positive conversation with an adult for two minutes a day for 10 days in a row, will become much less challenging.
“Have a connection with them and learn more about them, and it pretty much has an 85 per cent success rate,” Schonert Reichl said.
She explained community members can have the same positive effect on children, noting one wealthy man credited his success to the newspaper salesman on the corner who believed in him when he was a kid.
“You never know what kind of impact you’re going to have,” she said.
The take-away messages from Schonert Reichl’s talk were to create caring environments and relationships so students feel supported and nurtured, to provide kids with specific skills that will foster social and emotional learning and to take the time to develop adult social and emotional well being.
“Remember that kids learn by what we do, not by what we say,” she noted.
Find out more about social and emotional learning at www.casel.org.