At its core, Social Emotional Learning is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (Source: CASEL) There are five core competency areas that SEL focuses on: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness.
In recent years, there has been a shift in how educators and child development experts think about the skills students need to be successful in school and in life. While the emphasis was once put on cognitive skills, research now suggests that a child’s success or failure is also determined by Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills. In fact, we now know that students with strong SEL skills tend to perform better academically, and therefore classrooms are becoming more focused on educating the whole child.
Even still, many programs are hesitant to lean in too heavily on SEL skills, as they are often viewed as “soft” or “nonessential.” Further, school systems around the world do not always have the means to implement SEL skills in the classrooms.
HerStory Director Jennifer Estrada has long been a proponent of Social Emotional Learning, and emphasized these skills as she worked to develop the HerStory Curriculum, as a way to supplement the cognitive skills girls around the globe receive in the classroom. Her long-term goal is to shift the thinking around SEL skills to understanding them as vital to a person’s well-being.
“These foundational skills are linked to overall life satisfaction and general wellbeing, so they can have a big impact on a person’s life,” Jennifer says, “for girls especially, understanding and prioritizing your own needs in healthy ways can be hard and society doesn’t always readily make space for that so it’s good to build and practice these skills early on so that they can be a part of a person’s whole life.”
Social Emotional Learning and the HerStory Curriculum
Global G.L.O.W. does a lot of work early in the HerStory programs around self-awareness: thinking about and understanding who you are, what you need, what motivates you and what has shaped you. We also do a lot of work around goal-setting and intention-setting, both of which connect to and are rooted in good decision-making skills. Our curriculum also discusses healthy relationships and social awareness, with a focus on friendship and kindness as guiding values in these areas.
In HerStory Teen Clubs, girls often participate in an activity called “Circles of Trust.” Girls are invited to think about who they share different parts of their life with and who they can go to when they need to talk about something. This activity gives girls an opportunity to practice self-awareness in thinking about their needs and patterns of behavior, guiding them in responsible decision-making, and building relationship skills and social awareness as we think about how we can share with people in our circles in a way that is good for both people.